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A Study in Social Dynamics 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2011 with funding from 

Boston Library Consortium IVIember Libraries 

by Oliver Cromwell Cox, Ph.D. 




A Study in Social Dynamics 

Introduction by Dr. Joseph S. Roucek 


Hew Tork 1959 



The lines from "America" are reprinted ffom Harlem Shadows, by Claude McKay. 
Copyright, 1922, by Harcourt, Brace & Company, Inc. 

"Mother to Son" is reprinted from The Dream Keeper, by Langston Hughes. Copy- 
right, 1932, by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 

"As I Grow Older" and "Cross" are from The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes. 
Copyright, 1927, by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 

The lines from "The White Man's Burden" are reprinted from The Five Nations. 
Copyright, 1903, 1931, by Rudyard Kipling. Reprinted by permission of A. P. 
Watt & Son and Mrs. Bambridge. 

The extracts from Full Employment in a Free Society, by William H. Beveridge, 
are copyrighted, 1945, by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 

The extract from The Proletariat, by G. A. Briefs, is copyrighted, 1937, by Mc- 
Graw-Hill Book Co., Inc. 

The extracts from The Tragedy of Lynching, by Arthur F. Raper, are copyrighted, 
1933, by the University of North Carolina Press. 

The extract from Mission to Moscow is copyrighted, 1941, by Joseph E. Davies, 
reprinted by permission of Simon and Schuster, Inc. 

The extract from Reasons for Anger, by Robert Briffault, is copyrighted, 1936, 
by Simon and Schuster, Inc. 

The extract from The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, by Robert Briffault, 
is copyrighted, 1938, by Simon and Schuster, Inc. 

The extract from The Decline of American Capitalism, by Lewis Corey, is copy- 
righted, 1934, by Lewis Corey; reprinted by permission of Crown Publishers. 

The extract from The Coming Struggle for Power, by John Strachey, is copy- 
righted, 1933, by Covici-Friede; reprinted by permission of Crown Publishers. 

The extract from The Theory of Capitalist Development, by Paul Sweezy, is copy- 
righted, 1942, by Oxford University Press, New York. 


All Rights Reserved. 


Library of Congress catalog card number 59-8866 
Printed in the United States of America 

To the memory of 

The harvest truly is plenteous but 
the labourers are few; pray ye therefore 
the Lord of the harvest, that he will send 
forth labourers into his harvest. 



V^ in discussions of current social problems, and yet neither the 
theoretical meaning nor the practical implications of these concepts, as 
they apply to concrete situations, have been satisfactorily examined. In 
the past these terms have been used promiscuously and interchange- 
ably, with the result that the literature on the subject is exceedingly 
involved. Among these involvements two seem to stand out: that be- 
tween caste and race relations, and that between social class and 
political class. 

An understanding of the characteristics of a caste system is so im- 
portant as a basis for an understanding of other types of social systems 
that we have devoted the entire first part of this study to it. A distinction 
having been made, we could then discuss feudal, capitalist, and socialist 
systems without distracting suggestions about caste. To some readers 
this discussion on caste may seem too elaborate and labored. When, 
however, we consider the hundreds of books written on this subject, the 
continued, almost universal, misconceptions about the sociology of 
caste, and the significance of these misconceptions to the student of the 
social sciences, the space given to it is likely to seem small indeed. Al- 
though the writer spent some months observing the partial operation of 
caste among the thousands of East Indians in Trinidad, British West 
Indies, his data have been taken almost entirely from published ma- 
terials on the Hindus in India. 

It is not ordinarily realized that, of all the great mass of writing on 
race relations, there is available no consistent theory of race relations. 
The need for such a sociological explanation is so great that recently, 
when one author succeeded, with some degree of superficial logic, in 
explaining the phenomena in terms of caste relations, the college text- 
books and social-science journals, almost unanimously and unquestion- 

X Preface 

ingly, hurriedly adopted his theory. The situation appears to be similar 
with the concept class, especially in the sense of a power-group phe- 
nomenon. With the exception of the contributions of some of the 
"radical authors," the present writer could find very little material 
which discusses the modem class struggle realistically. As a matter of 
fact, even the Marxian writers have not made very clear for us their 
meaning of class, and this is probably one of the reasons for their hav- 
ing been consistently rejected by the orthodox social scientists. Yet, 
openly, the class struggle goes on with increasing fury. 

There is no single hypothesis which serves to explain the functioning 
of caste, class, and racial systems ; therefore, it has not been possible to 
state one in the beginning. However, we should make it clear that this 
is no desiccated, academic dissertationLln fact, it may be thought of as 
partly a reaction to that massive output on this subject which has little 
or no theoretical content and which is often irritatingly evasive and 
circuitous in stylejSince we have not followed this tradition of tentative 
expression, we may expect, from some very respectable quarters, the 
criticism of dogmatism. To be sure, it is well to keep our heads while 
the world is in convulsions, yet we may become inane if we discuss them 
as if we were describing an Egyptian mummy. At any rate, in the 
handling of these vital social problems we have deliberately tried to 
write clearly and unequivocally rather than tentatively and impression- 

Moreover, in an examination of the functioning of modem political 
classes one enters a field in which sides have already been taken ; conse- 
quently it would be presumptuous to expect a unanimous acceptance of 
conclusions derived from even the most objective treatment of the data. 
Surely we do not assume that the final word has been said on any of 
the larger problems considered in this study. Most of them are only be- 
ginning to become vital in the social sciences; thus we should expect 
views to remain fluid for some time. In the words of Hans Kohn, "a 
work of this kind is never a monologue — it is an uninterrupted conver- 
sation with those of the past whose thoughts we study, and with those 
whose task it still is to build the future out of the heritage of the past. 
And this conversation goes on after the work has been completed." 

In considering the behavior of "political classes" it has been prac- 
tically impossible to ignore the work of Karl Marx and that of some of 
his associates; indeed, there should be no need to ignore them. In 
capitalist societies, however, the very name of Karl Marx is ordinarily 
anathema; consequently, unless the writer takes a position opposite to 
that of Marx, he is likely not to be heard. Nevertheless, it seems that 

Preface xi 

interpretations of social data should be allowed to stand on their own 
merits — and this regardless of whether Marx ever lived. If social science 
has any claim at all to be science, it should at least refrain from dis- 
tilling social data through a context of designedly developed, popular 
prejudices. We may be able, for instance, to demolish a certain chain 
of social logic merely by stereotyping it "Marxian," yet this achieve- 
ment shows neither that the reasoning is untenable nor even that we 
have taken the trouble to understand it. 

When, for example, Professor Louis Wirth asserts, in an article pub- 
lished as recently as 1947 in the Annals of the American Academy of 
Political and Social Sciences, that "research in the social sciences will 
remain stunted and inadequate until it includes the search for knowl- 
edge on power relations among men and the means for generating the 
will and the capacity for action directed toward the achievement of a 
good society," we have an observation by a distinguished sociologist, 
the accuracy of which should certainly not be impaired simply because 
we recognize in it a restatement of the position that has been the very 
driving force behind the colossal intellectual output of Karl Marx. In 
the interest of historical perspective it is important that the assertion be 
known to have been emphasized by Marx; but, in so far as its scientific 
validity as a social fact is in question, Marx has nothing whatever to do 
with it. At best, Marxian hypotheses are "servants, not masters." In- 
deed, it has been said that Karl Marx himself was not Marxian because 
in his studies he strived to understand modem society, while the re- 
ligious Marxists, in their exegetical discussions, center their attention 
not upon the ongoing social system but rather upon an explanation and 
criticism of Marx — a sort of rumination of his conclusions, incidental 
errors and all. If, therefore, parts of this study seem Marxian, it is not 
because we have taken the ideas of this justly famous writer as gospel, 
but because we have not discovered any other that could explain the 
facts so consistently. 

The. present writer hopes that he is under no illusion about his own 
"value premise"; it is probably not hidden. He believes that there is 
serious maladjustment between the technological potentialities of 
Western society and the possibilities of bringing them into the service 
of human welfare, and that this maladjustment is an inherent trait of 
the social order. Moreover, he believes that it is not beyond the present 
capacity of human beings to devise plans for a satisfactory way of life. 
"The problem we are confronted with today," as Erich Fromm puts it, 
"is that of the organization of social and economic forces, so that man — 

xii Preface 

as a member of organized society — may become the miaster of those 
forces and cease to be their slave." 

From many points of view Hindu society is exceedingly interesting; 
it is probably the greatest of "our primitive contemporaries." In many 
respects the system is unique. So far as we have been able to determine, 
developed castes exist in no other part of the world. The caste system 
of India constitutes the social structure of Hinduism, which is Brah- 
manic society — a social system, to repeat, virtually restricted to the latter 
area. Thousands of years ago the priests of India achieved social 
dominance, and in pursuit of their interests they crystallized tradition so 
effectively that an ancient society of pre-eminent cultural achievements 
has come down into modern times almost intact. "All through history," 
says the Cambridge History of India, "down to the period of British 
rule we see one foreign power after another breaking through the north- 
western gateway, and the strongest of these winning the suzerainty over 
India. But the result in all cases was little more than a change of rulers 
— the deposition of one dominant caste and the substitution of another. 
The lives of the common people, their social conditions and systems of 
local government, were barely affected by such conquests. Indian in- 
stitutions have therefore a long unbroken history which makes their 
study especially valuable." The core of stability in this society is the 
caste system, which orders the society essentially according to the func- 
tion of different groups, and which order is traditional, sacred, and 
therefore presumptively changeless. 

All the tremendous literature of the Hindus, save the very earliest, 
is vitally concerned with this order, so that in Brahmanic India — that 
is to say, in unwesternized India — the social rules of some two thousand 
years ago still obtain both in letter and in spirit. Probably the most 
significant element in the stability of Hinduism is the phenomenal 
literary achievements of the early Brahmans, the Hindu priests. This 
preoccupation with literature is a cultural trait brought into India by 
the Aryans, a Central Asiatic people who spoke Sanskrit and probably 
lived for some time in the area northwest of the Hindu Kush Moun- 
tains. They have made the cornerstone of authority in Hinduism the 
sacred books of the Hindus. 

The early history of the Aryans had to be ferreted out by modern 
scholars, because the Aryans themselves left no history of their origin 
or of the dates of their migrations into India. They came into India in 
a number of tribal waves through the passes of the Hindu Kush over a 
period probably centering about the year 2000 B.C. There they met and 
conquered the native Dravidian tribes, who were darker in com- 

Preface xiii 

plexion than themselves and who had a different culture. But the 
Aryans seem to have amalgamated rather rapidly with the native popu- 
lation, and they finally settled down as one people to evolve the caste 
system of India. 

There is a tremendous amount of exegetical writing on the Sanskrit 
literature of India, very much of which is due to the state of the 
material itself. There is little if any certainty about the dates, the au- 
thors, or the places of the various compositions. As J. N. Farquhar says, 
"Indian history in the stricter sense opens with Alexander the Great's 
invasion of the Punjab in 326 B.C.; so that all previous events possess 
only a relative chronology." Indeed the chronology of many succeed- 
ing events is also relative. We shall, however, attempt to say a word 
about the early literature which we have used in this study, but for 
anything approaching an adequate discussion the reader will have to 
turn to the authorities. Among these are: the article "Sanskrit Lan- 
guage and Literature" in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia 
Britannica; the Cambridge History of India, Vols. I and II; A. A. 
Macdonnel, A History of Sanskrit Literature; J. N. Farquhar, The 
Religious Quest of India: An Outline of the Religious Literature of 
India; and Herbert H. Gowen, A History of Indian Literature. 

In the study of the caste system, probably the most important of the 
early literature are: the Vedas, the Brahmanas, the Upanishads, the 
dharmashastras, the epics, and the puranas. All this is Hindu literature 
which has been either composed or edited by Brahmans and conse- 
quently it is sacred. 

The Vedas are the fundamental religious work of the Hindus, 
their earliest literature. One of the Hindu law books (Manu) con- 
ceives of them in this way : "In whatever [condition] a man who knows 
■the true meaning of the Veda-science may dwell, he becomes even 
while abiding in this world, fit for the union with Brahman [God]." 
There are four Vedas, each of which is a collection, a samhita, of sacred 
texts: ( I ) the Rig- Veda, or lore of praise (or hymns) ; (2) the Sama- 
Veda, or lore of tunes (or chants) ; (3) the Yajur-Veda, or lore of 
prayer (or sacrificial formulas) ; and (4) Atharva-Veda, or lore of the 
Atharvans (a mythic priestly family). The Rig-Vedic collection of 
1 ,0 1 7 hymns is the earliest and basic religious text, but in all these col- 
lections there is surprisingly little of significance^ for an understanding 
of the social conditions of the early Aryans. The Rig- Veda was prob- 
ably composed about the middle of the second millennium b.c. 

The Brahmanas are intended for the sacrificial priests, the Brah- 
mans; they explain the relationship of the Vedic texts to the sacrificial 

xiv Preface 

ceremony. Each Veda has its Brahmana or Brahmanas. It is in the 
Brahmanas that the priests developed their tradition of social im- 
portance most naively and made of the sacrifice an exceedingly com- 
plicated and mystical ritual. 

The philosophic treatises forming a third division of the Vedic 
literature are called Upanishads. They deal with the meaning of human 
existence and the nature of the supreme being. In describing the Vedic 
literature, A. A. Macdonnel says: "In the Vedic period three literary 
strata can be distinguished : the first is the four Vedas, which consist of 
hymns, prayers, and spells addressed to the gods ; the second, that of the 
Brahmanas or ritual treatises ; the third, that of the Upanishads or the 
theosophical works, the basis of much of the later Indian philosophy." 
There are some 170 Upanishads. 

For an understanding of Hindu society the dharmashastras or law 
books are most important. They deal specifically with the practical, 
everyday behavior and conduct of persons. And by far the most signifi- 
cant of these law books is the Manava Dharmashastra or the Laws of 
Manu, which is closely related to the Laws of Vishnu. These two codes 
duplicate a number of verses, some 160 of them, but the authorities 
seem to think that Manu is the original. Manu and Vishnu, of course, 
are mythical authors. The period of development of the Laws of Manu 
was probably during the last two or three centuries B.C. The Laws, 
however, are considered a divine revelation. 

It is from a reading of the law books that one gets a feeling that the 
existence of Hindus is regulated by the sacred books. The latter illus- 
trate most vividly the extent to which religion, rules, and order enter 
into the minutest act of the individual's life. As the Code of Manu itself 
declares: "In this work the sacred laws have been fully stated as well as 
the good and bad qualities of human actions and the immemorial rule 
of human conduct, to be followed by all the four castes." 

The two great Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, 
throw considerable light upon the social life of the ancient community. 
These epics, which apparently began with the story of a feud between 
the Kurus and the Pandus, two royal families, the descendants of 
Bharata, and the story of the life of Rama, respectively, finally grew 
into great encyclopedic works with additions by unnumbered authors. 
"The complete work," say the authors of the Britannica article refer- 
ring to the Mahabharata, "consists of upwards of 1 00,000 couplets — its 
contents thus being nearly eight times the bulk of the Iliad and Odyssey 
combined. It is divided into eighteen books, with a supplement, en- 
titled Harivams'a, or genealogy of the god Hari (Krishna-Vishnu) . The 

Preface xv 

portion relating to the feud of the rival houses constitutes somewhere 
between a fourth and a fifth of the work; and it is by no means im- 
probable that this portion once formed a separate poem, called the 
Bharata." Some authorities assign the date for the growth of this "huge 
encyclopedia of theology, philosophy, poUtics, and law" to the period 
between 600 b.c. and 200 a.d., or even later. 

Within the Mahabharata itself there is a long religious poem, the 
Bhagavad-Gita or the Lord's Song, which has had considerable influ- 
ence upon the religious thinking of the Hindus. Concerning its im- 
portance, Farquhar observes : "There is no other piece of literature that 
is so much admired and used by thinking Hindus; and it has won very 
high praise from many Western . . . scholars." And in speaking of 
the heterogeneity of the compositions in the Mahabharata, A. A. Mac- 
donnel declares, "While the two armies are drawn up prepared for 
battle, a whole philosophical poem, in eighteen cantos, the Bhagav- 
adgita, is recited to the hero Arjuna, who hesitates to advance and fight 
against his kin." 

The puranas are collections of ancient or "old world" stories, legends, 
genealogies, cosmologies, and so on. There are some twenty recognized 
puranas, and they date from the later Vedic period downward. Con- 
cerning the significance of these works, Farquhar says: "It would be 
difficult to exaggerate the popularity and importance of the religious 
poems known as Puranas. They are very widely used among the 
common people both in the original and in numerous vernacular ver- 
sions and adaptations. Indeed the epics and the Puranas are the real 
Bible of the common people, whether literate or illiterate." 

Although the early Hindu literature is indispensable for an under- 
standing of the caste system, it should be supplemented by actual studies 
of Hinduism. For instance, the early Hterature has consistently referred 
to "the four castes" — laws have been declared to govern the social rela- 
tionships among "the four castes" — and yet there were probably never 
only four castes constituting Hindu society. It appears that the early 
Aryans conceived of their society as being divided into four estates and, 
when the caste system actually came into being, there was a carry-over 
in thinking to the new social situation with its very large number of 
castes and subcastes. In Chapter 2 we have stressed the importance of 
the caste -subcaste distinction for a comprehension of the nature of the 
caste system. 

Since this essay is not of the nature of a survey, we have not at- 
tempted to examine and to list the various sources from which valuable 
data, especially on race relations, may be obtained. In our discussion of 

xvi Preface 

previous contributions in this field, for instance, we have been con- 
cerned only with showing how the approach of certain leading authori- 
ties has apparently limited their chances of developing a convincing 
theory. However, no study of race relations could be considered ade- 
quate without a knowledge of the contributions made by such works as 
Ray Stannard Baker, Following the Color Line; John DoUard, Caste 
and Class in a Southern Town; Hortense Powdermaker, Ajter Free- 
dom; Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma; St. Clair Drake and 
Horace R. Cayton, Black Metropolis; W. E. B. Du Bois, The 'Souls of 
Black Folk; and Stetson Kennedy, Southern Exposure. 

It may be well to reiterate that this study may sometimes appear to 
be overlively. In times of revolutionary social change, conclusions of 
even the physical scientists may appear to have radical social conse- 
quences. Moreover, in such times "there are no means of preventing 
large numbers of men from becoming either cynics or advocates. The 
cynics are blinded by the swirling dust of a passing civilization and, 
therefore, they have hardly any vision of a more glorious rebirth ; they 
are men of little faith. On the other hand, the advocates are either 
afraid of or zealous for the emergent social order. In this situation the 
business of the social scientist is supposed to be that of standing off in 
cold objectivity while he analyzes the social convulsions, or, more 
preferably, that of ignoring them entirely until such time as a societal 
post-mortem could be safely performed. 

And yet inevitably he will either deal with totally inconsequential 
subjects or suffer himself to be categorized either as advocate or cynic 
in consequence of his meddling with significant social questions that 
are always "hot to handle." Stefan Zweig's observation in reference to 
another revolutionary period and in criticism of the Erasmian attitude 
seems in point: "There are epochs wherein neutrality is stigmatized as 
a crime ; during times of extreme political excitement the world insists 
upon a clear Yes or No, an affirmation of support or of disapproval, a 
distinct declaration of T am for Luther or I am for the Pope.' " Clearly, 
the social scientist should be accurate and objective but not neutral ; he 
should be passionately partisan in favor of the welfare of the people 
and against the interests of the few when they seem to submerge that 
welfare. In a word, the reason for the existence of the social scientist is 
that his scientific findings contribute to the betterment of the people's 

To some readers this essay may seem uneven in its level of sophistica- 
tion. Certain chapters — those on the class struggle, for instance — may 
seem too simplified. However, it is the opinion of the writer that one 

Preface xvii 

reason why this subject has been kept almost completely out of the 
social-science textbooks is that the monographic discussions of it have 
been too highly philosophical and abstract. 

Then, too, it is intended that the book may be read not only by the 
specialist but also by any intelligent reader with interest in the field — 
the joumeilist, the missionary, the social worker. Probably no part of 
the discussion is beyond the comprehension of the average junior or 
senior college student, while the mature graduate student in the social 
sciences may find a critical approach stimulating. 

From the very nature of this work one necessarily feels indebted to so 
many teachers that, in accordance with ordinary gratitude, it t)ecomes 
wholly impracticable to mention them all. The citations will probably 
indicate most of those upon whom I have put some immediate reliance. 
Many persons among the white, colored, and East Indian people of 
Trinidad have made my interviews not only a pleasure but also a source 
of certain germinal ideas on race relations. For face-to-face discussion 
and criticism of the substance of the book, I should like particularly to 
thank my colleagues. Professors Melvin B. Tolson, Andrew P. Watson, 
V. E. Daniel, and Alonzo J. Davis; George V. Bobrinskoy, Professor of 
Sanskrit Literature at the University of Chicago; and Dr. Werner 
Cahnman, formerly of Fisk University. Some parts of this book have 
already appeared as articles, and for permission to reprint these I thank 
the editors of The American Journal of Sociology, The American Socio- 
logical Review, Social Forces, The Journal of Negro Education, and 
The Aryan Path. In typing the manuscript, Mrs. Marie Smith took 
more than ordinary care and interest. For the many courtesies extended 
to me by the reference librarians at the University of Chicago and in 
Tuskegee Institute, I am also thankful. I alone, of course, am re- 
sponsible for the way in which the materials are analyzed and pre- 

Oliver C. Cox 
Chicago, July i8, ig4y 





Part One: CASTE 


^ Definitions 3 

Caste, a Cultural Phenomenon 5 

Caste Stereotypes the Society 6 

Social Mobility Inevitable 7 

Castes May Combine or Divide 9 

Classes within Castes 10 

The Caste Hierarchy II 

Caste Superiority 14 

Caste Inferiority 16 

Caste as a Fraternity 18 

Caste, Not Slavery 19 


Caste Assimilated 2i 

Inequality of Man Fundamental 23 

^ Eating Habits 25 

Caste and Subcaste 26 

^, Social Distance and Purity 29 


XX Contents 


The Meaning of Hinduism 36 

Hinduism as a Religion 38 

Mysticism, an Indispensable Factor 39 

Karma and Caste 40 

y Caste and Hinduism 42 

Christianity and Caste 42 

Western Thought and Hinduism 44 


Ascendancy of Man 46 

,^ The Suttee * 48 

Conception of Woman's Nature 49 

The Problem of Divorce 51 

Women Not Slaves 51 

/ The Stabilizers of the Culture 52 

X The Meaning of Marriage as a Factor in Caste Relationships 53 

Marriage, a Parental Problem 57 

Early Marriage 58 

Married State Universal 59 


Natural Occupations 60 

The Traditional Occupations of Castes 62 

Caste as a Function of Occupation 63 

Substituting Occupations 67 

Nature of Occupational Change . 68 


No Central Government 71 

The Idea of a State and Nationality 71 

Spatial Organization 73 

» Brahmans, a Factor 73 

The Panchayat 76 

, Control over the Individual 78 

Dharma 80 

The Boycott 80 

Contents \ xxi 


The Question 82 

Traditional Theories 85 

Pure-Blood Theories 86 

Color as a Factor 93 

The Theories of Ibbetson and Nesfield 96 

The Varna Theory 99 

Early Amalgamation of Population 103 

Vaisyas and Sudras 105 

Purport of Anthropometry 107 

Brahman-Kshatriya Struggle for Power 108 

Brahmans, the Keepers of Knowledge 1 1 1 

Dominant Factors in Caste Development 113 

A Later Caste Formation 117 

Part Two: CLASS 


8. ESTATES 123 

Estates as Social Structure 123 

Estate Organization 127 

1. The Clergy 127 

2. The Nobility 128 

5. The Common People 131 

4. The Bourgeoisie 132 

Estate as a Political Concept 138 

The Philosophy of Estates 140 


Difference in Economic Organization 143 

The Transition 145 

Ideology of Social-Class System . . ■. 147 


Meaning of Political Class 153 

Control of the State — a Goal 155 

Method and Procedure 156 

xxii Contents 

Leadership 158 

The Purpose and Composition of Glasses 159 

Relationship of Political and Social Glasses 161 

The Economic Man and the Glass Struggle 163 


The Problem 174 

The Ruling Glass 177 

Capitalist Production and the Proletariat 1 79 

Causes of Proletarian Unrest 182 

Fascism 188 

The Ways of Fascism 192 

Nature of the Revolution 198 

The Struggle in the United States 2O4 

The State and the Glass Struggle 213 

Views of the Social Movement 214 


Meaning of Modern Democracy 222 

Meaning and Significance of Modem Democracy 224 

Freedom and Democracy ' 228 

Individualism and Democracy Incompatible 236 

Capitalism and the Fear of Democracy 240 


The Problem and Meaning of Democracy 246 

Capitalism Prostrate 248 

The New Order 249 

The Ruling Class 250 

The Lines of Battle 252 

Roosevelt, a Reformer 257 

Nature of the Reaction ........... 260 

Involvement of the Schools 264 

The Committee on Un-American Activities 269 

Involvement of the Church 275 

Organized Labor 277 

The USSR and the Class Struggle 278 

Contents xxiii 


Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels 283 

Othmar Spann 284 

Werner Sombart 285 

Max Weber 286 

R. M. Maclver 288 

A. W. Kornhauser 290 

Other Authorities 291 


Castes as Rigid Classes 298 

Structure of Class and Caste "Hierarchy" 301 

The Problem of Classification 302 

Class and Caste Mobility 310 

Part Three: RACE 


The Concept — Race Relations 319 



A Definition 321 

The Beginning of Racial Antagonism 322 

The Progress of Racial Antagonism 345 


The Stranger Situation 354 

The Original-Contact Situation 355 

The Slavery Situation 357 

The Ruling-Class Siti*ation 360 

The Bipartite Situation 363 

The Amalgamative Situation 371 

The Nationalistic Situation 375 

A Special Case? 376 

Personality Factors 380 

Crisis and Panic in Race Relations 382 

The Eurasians 384 

xxiv Contents 

The White Woman 386 

The Church and Race Relations 390 

Plan for Resolving a Racial Situation 390 


Intolerance 392 

Position of Jews and Negroes 393 

The Problem of Assimilation 394 

Negroes and Jews as Allies 396 

Naturalness of Race Prejudice and Intolerance .... 398 

A Restatement 400 

Nationalism 401 

Nationalism and Intolerance 406 

Race Prejudice, Class Conflict, and Nationalism .... 408 


Race Relations Physical, Caste Cultural 423 

Structure of Caste and Race Relations 427 

Race and Caste Consciousness 428 

Passing 430 

Race Conflict Addressed to the System Itself 431 

Race Attitudes Dynamic 432 

Race Relations Pathological 433 

The Church, a Factor 436 

Education, a Factor 437 

Occupation 438 

Aspiration, a Factor 441 

Race, Caste, and Intermarriage 443 

Marriage Restriction Laws 445 

Hypergamy 446 

Endogamy 447 

Race and Caste Stability 450 

Dynamics of Race Relations 452 



The Problem 454 

V Nature of Heredity among Castes 455 

Contents xxv 

Racial Differences 456 

Outcasting 459 


Robert E. Park 463 

The Meaning of Race Relations 463 

Race Prejudice 464 

Caste and Race 466 

The Mores and Race Relations 468 

Poor Whites 473 

An Estimate 474 

Ruth Benedict 477 

A Restatement 485 


The Hypothesis 489 

Estimate of Basic Principle^ 492 

Personality of Upper Class Negroes 498 

The Social Organization of Negroes 501 

Contribution of the School 505 



"The Value Premise" 510 

The Caste Hypothesis 514 

The Biological Problem 516 

Rigidity of the Caste System 518 

Mysticism 519 

Poor Whites 521 

The Ruling Class 523 

Emphasis upon Sex 526 

The Vicious Circle 528 


The System Limited 539 

Practical Value of the Concept 543 

xxvi Contents 


The Problem 545 

The Problem of Assimilation 545 

The Meaning of Assimilation 546 

Lynching 548 

The National Conscience 564 

Changing Social Status . ■ 567 

Negroes in the North 569 

Negroes' Approach to the Problem 571 

The Problem of Negro Leadership 572 

The Problem of White Leadership 575 

Bibliography 587 

Index 603 


/ m/oTHiNG has been more provocative of international ill will than 
•/ f problems springing from, and directly and indirectly related 
to, the phenomena of caste, class, and race. From one point of view, 
World War II was fought to decide the validity of the claims of Hitler's 
gang that their "racial" background entitled them to reorganize Europe 
and the world under the leadership of the "superior" Nazi Aryans. 
Similarly, the Japanese Jingoists fought the war in order to prove to 
themselves and to the rest of the world that they had the right to domi- 
nate the Asiatic continent as a "super-race," 

Important though the racial differences between the Occident and 
the Orient may be, the peoples of the world, and especially the Ameri- 
can people, might also give greater consideration to problems closer 
home. These may not have the dramatic interest that international re- 
lations possess, but they come closer to precipitating actual trouble. The 
most challenging aspects of these racial, religious, and linguistic groups, 
which constitute "minorities" in the midst of more numerous and 
dominating populations, have much to do with the underlying hatreds 
and machinations that furnish the background of the bitter social con- 
flicts of the post-World War II years. They remain — tragic though it 
seems at the beginning of the first post-World War II decade — a con- 
tinued source of trouble. Though frontiers have changed, their altera- 
tion far too often has resulted only in the accentuation of the general 
problem which confronts the world today. And the revolt of the mil- 
lions of the non-Europeans against the rule of the white man, as 
especially exemplified in India, indicates that the old formula of domi- 
nation, utilizing the old-fashioned concepts of the arrangements bene- 
fiting the ruling cliques of a few imperialistic nations, has to be dras- 
tically revised. 

Obviously, while we are prone to regard the questions of caste, class, 

xxviii Introduction 

and race as almost exclusively non-American problems, there is an 
aspect of these problems which confronts the American people as a 
challenge to the democratic principles and practices which, we insist, 
should serve as substantial and living examples to the other peoples as 
the best ways of life. Yet our difficulties in this field have not been 
solved and the gigantic Negro problem needs not only to be considered 
but also solved as America's burning question par excellence. The need 
of dealing with them is overwhelmingly pressing. The development of 
greater knowledge of the world significance of the question becomes of 
prime importance to domestic and international good will. 

This approach to the problem makes the present examination of 
the issues of caste, class, and race relations most opportune. The point 
of view — that of an American familiar with actualities yet given the 
detachment of American scholarship — should commend itself to those 
who seek enlightenment. The treatment corrects many minor errors 
of other writers and presents a clear and straightforward picture of its 
subject. Those who have never found time to go through other books 
on the topic will learn from it much they never knew. 

In other words, this is a lively book with virtues of more than ordi- 
nary degree. An astonishing amount of research has gone into its mak- 
ing and in its wider implications the volume opens vistas not yet 
scanned. At a time of enforced re-evaluation, such as we are at present 
undergoing, however unconscious we are of it, this book is greatly 
needed not only in our schools but also by all Americans who can 
bear the unpleasant truth about the world-wide implications of the 
acute problems of caste, class, and race facing us and the globe. 

Joseph S. Roucek 

Hofstra College, Hempstead, Long Island 
I lily ig4y 



V^^ summatory antagonisms between peoples and which always re- 
sult in more or less accommodation between them and more or less 
significant internal social changes. There are certain characteristics of 
war which may be found to be typical in all great national struggles, 
even as far back as the conquests of the major dynastic Pharaohs of 
Egypt. Indeed, it is possible to think of war as having its basis in some 
instinctual residue of human nature. These apparently common traits of 
war, however, do not tell us very much about it as an immediate social 
problem ; they are likely to lead to pessimistic generalizations about its 

Wars are significantly functions of social systems, and it is especially 
by a study of these systems that we can know something about their 
peculiar nature and social determinants. Peoples in Western society do 
not go to war for the same causes as those which actuated the early 
Hindus; in fact, with the rise of capitalist civilization, the nations of 
Western society began to go to war on different grounds from those 
which incited the rulers of medieval society. World War II initiated a 
new era in international sensitiveness, because the primary irritants had 
never existed in the world before. Feudal wars may be thought of as 
involving typically the personal power and prestige of great landed 
rulers, capitalist wars as mainly nationalistic conflicts over markets and 
exploitable resources; but the era centering about World War II began 
the fateful period of political-class wars, or the struggle for dominance 
of the capitalist world by the democratic masses. 

This latest period involves, moreover, the struggle between social 
systems, one of which is new in the world and thus presents a new basis 
for the next great war. Since the pith of the new antagonism is po- 
litical-class interests, we should expect to find the conflict as perilously 

XXX Prologue 

domestic as it is international. Thus, World War II began and ended, 
although the war in China continues; even today the very word Spain 
is charged with violent emotion; and imminent civil strife in almost 
every European country concerns immediately the fate of the political- 
class adjustment within the three major powers of the world. This is 
not the old relatively static, imperialistic era; it is something new in 

The continuance of an exceedingly viable civilization is here in- 
volved. Frequently, in current discussions, it has been asserted that "the 
next war will end civilization." The meaning is probably that the next 
war will end this civilization. Although a recognition of the fact may 
be distasteful, it is necessary to realize that capitalist civilization re- 
ceived a tremendous shock from World War I, and, at the same time, 
the democratic movement was invigorated. World War II concluded 
another capitalist crisis, still worse — so much so, indeed, that in all the 
world only the system as it now exists in the United States can stand 
unaided upon its own feet. And yet so paradoxical a thing is the intel- 
lectual dynamics of capitalism that it is currently believed by some 
leaders of great political power that only World War III could restore 
the system to a healthy, peaceful existence. 

Perhaps, if we can see exactly what a modem political class is and 
how it functions, we may not be so certain that the passing system can 
be restored by another world war. The social ferment now at work is 
as old as capitalism itself — it is inherent in capitalism — therefore vio- 
lence cannot destroy it. From a beginning so feeble that it could be 
almost completely disregarded, democracy has now become a formid- 
able threat to the modern system of power relationship. We cannot 
liquidate this historical fact either by ignoring it or by calling it names, 
for it is the unavoidable subject of modem domestic and international 
conflict ; it is, indeed, the question of who shall rule the social system, 
the few or the many. And the predictable decision involves not simply 
a political coup d'etat, but rather the substitution of a new social order, 
a new way of life with distinctly different social ends. Thus the class 
struggle is not a myth ; it is as real as the human lives that are being 
daily sacrificed all over the world in its interest. 

Racial antagonism is part and parcel of this class struggle, because it 
developed within the capitalist system as one of its fundamental traits. 
It may be demonstrated that racial antagonism, as we know it today, 
never existed in the world before about 1492; moreover, racial feeling 
developed concomitantly with the development of our modem social 
system. Probably one of the most persistent social illusions of modem 

Prologue xxxi 

times is that we have race prejudice against other people because they 
are physically different — that race prejudice is instinctive. From the 
point of view of Anglo-Saxon, gentile, well-to-do people, we may 
hate peoples of other nationalities, hate Jews, hate all colored peoples, 
and hate union workers. Yet we can safely say that these are not all an 
identical social attitude. 

Our feeling against, say, the Italians may vanish if they become our 
allies in war; feeling against the Jews may subside as we begin to dis- 
count the importance of religion in determining social phenomena; if 
Negroes do our work contentedly and help to break strikes for us, we 
may defend and even treat them amiably; we may see considerable 
virtue in union workers if they insist that the company union has more 
merit than the outside organization. Human beings have the capacity 
for "social hatred" or antagonism; yet in any given social situation of 
inter-group antagonism, we do not seek an explanation by referring to 
this capacity. The social antagonism is as stable and as different as the 
inciting cause — the interest — behind the antagonism. Human nature 
itself is probably the most plastic and malleable of all animal nature. 

The interest behind racial antagonism is an exploitative interest — 
the peculiar type of economic exploitation characteristic of capitalist 
society. To be sure, one might say this cannot be, for one feels an almosf 
irrepressible revulsion in the presence of colored people, especially 
Negroes, although one never had any need to exploit them. It is evi- 
dently the way they look, their physical difference, which is responsible 
for one's attitude. The assumption here must be, however, that one's 
own looks are naturally attractive to all people of color, since it can 
hardly be shown that any people of color ever had race prejudice before 
contact with Western civilization. Race prejudice is not an individual 
idiosyncrasy; it is a social attribute. Ordinarily the individual is born 
into it and accepts it unconsciously, like his language, without question. 
In the Deep South, for instance, it is the custom for the different sexes 
of the two races to look at each other as if they were asexual objects, 
yet it would be utter nonsense to say that the difference in color has 
eliminated all chances of arousing sexual appetite between them. 

Negroes — to consider the United States specifically — must not be 
allowed to think of themselves as human beings having certain basic 
rights protected in the formal law. On the whole, they came to America 
as forced labor, and our slavocracy could not persist without a con- 
sistent set of social attitudes which justified the system naturally. 
Negroes had to be thought of as subsocial and subhuman. To treat a 

xxxii Prologue 

slave as if he were a full-fledged human being would not only be 
dangerous but also highly inconsistent with the social system. 

However, it should not be forgotten that, above all else, the slave 
was a worker whose labor was exploited in production for profit in a 
capitalist market. It is this fundamental fact which identifies the Negro 
problem in the United States with the problem of all workers regardless 
of color. We can understand, therefore, the Negro problem only in so 
far as we understand their position as workers. Moreover, their status 
as workers has been categorically like that of white workers; indeed, 
with the crystallization of social forces, the real position and problems 
of both Negro and white workers are beginning unmistakably to 

As a race primarily of exploited and exploitable workers, then, we 
may predict certain trends of the Negro population. In the future, 
Negroes will probably become more highly urbanized than any other 
native-born population group in the country. Although they were 
originally the principal source of "cheap, docile labor," best suited 
to plantation production, with the coming of freedom and greater 
knowledge of the labor market we should expect them to seek to sell 
their labor — practically the only significant economic resource they 
have — in the best markets. The best labor markets are ordinarily found 
in the cities; therefore, Negroes have been moving in on the cities. 
Today Negroes in the United States are less urbanized than native 
white people, but Negro urbanization has been increasing at a much 
faster rate than that of whites. In 19 lo, 27.3 per cent of the Negroes 
lived in cities, but in 1940 the percentage increased to 48.6. For the 
same two periods the figures for native whites were 43.6 and 55.1, 

As Negroes become more urbanized they also become a more signifi- 
cant group in the organizable labor force of the nation. Moreover, 
with the ascendance of industrial unionism, their organization has 
been greatly facilitated. This, however, is the sensitive spot of race re- 
lations in the United States ; here the struggle against racial discrimina- 
tion and prejudice is given its true political-class orientation, and the 
Negro problem tends to become lost in the major struggle for power 
that is actually in process in all capitalist countries of the world. 

Both the AFL and the CIO are increasing their activities in the 
South — both are organizing Negro workers — but it is the system of 
industrial unionism of the CIO, with its inevitable tendency demo- 
cratically to identify the interests of all workers regardless of color, that 
threatens to be the Nemesis of racial hatred in the South. In a circular 

Prologue xxxiii 


entitled The Kiss of Death, sent out on April 29, 1946, by the Southern 
States Industrial Council, with headquarters at Nashville, Tennessee, 
the political-class, race, and labor relationships are clearly expressed. 
Thus this organization of Southern employers declares : 

One of the most pitiful, and at the same time most dangerous features 
of this drive to organize the South is the way the Negroes are being misled 
and used by these Communist groups. By advocating a system of social 
and economic equality, and by arousing ill-will and hatred between the 
White and Negro races, these people are promising the Negro an earthly 
Utopia which they know they cannot deliver, and which they really have 
no intention of attempting to deliver. . . . 

I predict that the ones who will suffer most from the abortive efforts of 
this group of carpet-baggers will be the Negro who permits himself to be 
used in this unholy effort. He will have no friends among his own race, 
and certainly he will have none among the Whites. . . . 

Why this organized effort in the South? Because the Communist-CIO- 
PAC-SCHW [Southern Conference of Human Welfare] know that as long 
as the South remains free, there can never be a Communist dictatorship 
in America. They know that the free Southern worker, who believes in 
freedom of contract, in the open shop, and in the right to bargain indi- 
vidually or collectively with his employer, must be subjugated and his 
freedom destroyed before there can be a Communist dictatorship in Amer- 
ica. They know that in the South the hearts and minds of the people arc 
strong and reliant in a faith that has been made possible by the right to 
worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience, 
and they know this faith in God must be destroyed before there can be a 
Communist dictatorship in America. . . . This is no labor movement, 
unless it is also an effort to destroy the A.F. of L. 

This, then, is the offense of all offenses — the attempt to organize 
the black labor supply of the South. To be sure, the AFL has never been 
particularly loved by Southern businessmen, but in this situation it is 
decidedly considered the lesser of two evils. Its past policy of organizing 
only the upper crust of strategic. workers left the masses, in which the 
Negro workers belong, wholly at the disposal of "free" enterprise. 

It is remarkable that some of the most precious rights of human wel- 
fare are attributed to the advocacy and practice of communists; and 
yet, in the same breath, we are asked to hate communists. There must 
be something wrong about this. It was President Franklin Roosevelt, 
in fact, and not the CIO, who initiated and won the struggle for the 
unionization and improvement of the economic condition of the masses 
of workers ; and it is the National Labor Relations Act which guarantees 
to these masses an American right to organize into labor unions. But 
since Roosevelt, in spite of all the attacks of the ruling class, has re- 
mained the great champion of the people, his name cannot be effec- 

xxxiv Prologue 

tively mentioned. Instead, the CIO is identified with the negative — 
stereotype — communism, and is attacked as such. 

Of especial significance is the fact that these employers feel that 
"one of the most dangerous features of this drive" is the attempt to 
organize Negro workers. This is the white, ruling-class conception of the 
Negroes' "Utopia"; in the labor union the Negro has his promise of 
"social equality." This is indeed so dangerous that, should he join the 
workers' organization, "he will have no friends among his own race, 
and certainly he will have none among the whites." Moreover, it is 
clearly inferred that as long as the South can maintain its racial system 
the country as a whole can be effectively inhibited from achieving its 
democratic ends. Stetson Kennedy, in his Southern Exposure, went to 
great pains in making a detailed analysis of this. 

The CIO, to be sure, is admittedly dangerous to the racial system 
of the South. In order to facilitate and strengthen its organizing ac- 
tivities among the masses of workers, it carries on an intense, anti- 
prejudice campaign. This campaign is not the ordinary moralistic 
lesson about man's inhumanity to man. It is an indoctrination of the 
workers on the very basis of racial antagonism and its effect in keeping 
all workers in subjection. At its 1939 Convention the CIO adopted the 
following resolution: 

Whereas, employers constantly seek to split one group of workers from 
another, and thus deprive them of their full economic strength, by arous- 
ing prejudices based on race, creed, color or nationality, and one of the 
most frequent weapons used by employers to accomplish this is to create 
false conflicts between Negro and white workers, Now, therefore, be it — 
Resolved, that the CIO hereby pledges itself to uncompromising oppo- 
sition to any form of discrimination, whether political or economic, based 
on race, color, creed or nationality. 

Resolutions of this kind have been common in the yearly conventions 
of other labor organizations; they are ordinarily paraphrases of a cer- 
tain amendment to the constitution and are seldom offensive to anyone. 
However, it is the determined intent of the CIO to put its anti-dis- 
crimination decisions into practice which makes it a particularly 
"communist" labor movement. Openly, this union takes pride in an- 
nouncing: "In every case, the CIO makes sure that Negro workers re- 
ceive the same benefits. In every union, the Negro worker and his 
family have the same chance to win the better life that the white 
worker has." In an educational pamphlet, The CIO and the Negro 
Worker, it is pointed out : "The CIO has organized Negro and white 
workers alike because that is the only way strong labor unions can 

Prologue XXXV 

be built. For a union to practice discrimination is to hand over half 
its strength to the employer, who uses it to weaken and divide the 
workers." The "CIO Committee to Abolish Racial Discrimination" 
is an active educational and juridical group. 

Of course Negro workers have already been beaten and killed for 
joining the unions, but they have not been completely intimidated. 
Now and then one reads newspaper accounts such as the following 
from the New York Times (June 30, 1946) : 

Last month a Negro union worker (a recent convert) was taken from 
his job in Twiggs County, a rural section of Georgia, and beaten soundly 
by four individuals who said they were knights of the Ku Klux Klan. This 
was supposed to be a lesson to him and his friends about joining unions. 

These stirrings among the workers of the South, however, are merely 
an insertion of the very thin edge of a wedge which has certain splitting 
potentialities; progress will be rough and halting, for the system is by 
no means disintegrated. At any rate, although the democratic forces 
cannot at present count upon a break-through, World War II has 
created certain opportunities for enthusiastic activity. Besides the 
Political Action Committee of the CIO, the National Association for 
the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties 
Union, the Southern Conference of Human Welfare, all the Negro 
newspapers, some white, liberal newspapers, and a host of minor or- 
ganizations and publications have increased their efforts to secure the 
suffrage for Negroes in the South. Even the Supreme Court of the 
United States is beginning to feel the time has come to do away with 
the subterfuges which have circumvented the Constitution in denying 
Negroes the right to vote. Led by the Texas white primary case, the 
Court has recently been putting the anti-Negro voting system in the 
South to probably its severest test in history. 

The reaction naturally has been frantic and determined; the big 
guns of "white supremacy" have been brought into play. A revived 
Ku Klux Klan, with flaming crosses bigger and more visible than ever, 
spearheads the movement, while great champions of Southern eco- 
nomic interests such as James Eastland, John Rankin, the successors of 
Eugene Talmadge, and Theodore Bilbo whip up the white masses 
into a hysteria of racial fear and hatred — nor has the powerful National 
Association of Manufacturers been asleep. A number of "Christian" 
and "veteran" anti-racial organizations have mushroomed in the re- 
gion, and such anti-labor sheets as The Trumpet and Militant Truth 
are finding increasing support. Riots have spread, and Negroes have 

xxxvi Prologue 

been driven out of communities and lynched in new demonstrations of 
refined brutality. 

All this is likely to seem confusing if we think of it as an incorrigible 
racial trait of "Southern white people." It is, in fact, part of a political- 
class war, the final outcome of which could hardly be mistaken. Poor 
whites, it is true, are mostly in evidence at the great man hunts and 
lynchings, yet it would be an egregious error to think of them as initia- 
tors of racial antagonism in the South. Surely it must seem paradoxical 
that, while General Douglas MacArthur, himself a Southerner, ' with 
the backing of the United States Army strives with all the sanctimony 
of a savior to introduce and maintain popular suffrage in Japan, a dis- 
tinguished United States senator declares to the people of Mississippi 
that "if a few Negroes vote in the Democratic primary this year, more 
will vote in 1947, and from then on it will go into a mighty surge . . . 
[that] every red-blooded, Anglo-Saxon man in Mississippi must resort 
to any means to keep hundreds of Negroes from the polls." 

And the means which this leader advocates are sometimes terrible 
indeed. For example, Time, August 5, 1 946, reports one case as follows : 

In Rupert District of South Georgia's Taylor County, Macie Snipes 
was the only Negro to vote. The day after election four white men called 
him out from supper. Macie Snipes staggered back into the house with 
blood gushing from the bullet wounds in his belly. A coroner's jury 
solemnly reported that he had been killed by one of his visitors in self- 

The Negroes who were beaten for attempting to vote in the Missis- 
sippi State Democratic primary on July 2, 1946, did not stir up any 
particular anti-ruling-class sentiment in the United States. However, 
this does not mean that the entire nation has given its acquiescence. 
The struggle is far deeper than racial; it is, in reality, a struggle for 
democracy not only in the South but also in practically every other 
country of the world. Observe, in illustration, how one Southern letter 
writer to the Chicago Sun (July 23, 1946) ties up outstanding national 
liberals with the late Governor Eugene Talmadge's white-supremacy 
campaign in Georgia : 

The radical left-wing combination of Wallace and Arnall suffered a 
great loss in their plan to revolutionize the South. Eugene Talmadge and 
decency have won a great victory in Georgia. . . - Talmadge has given 
America's Communists a warning that Georgia shall be for Georgians. 

Probably it is a recognition of this paradox which prompted 
Chancellor Robert M. Hutchins to say that the United States is not 
yet morally ready to assume world leadership. AVhat thi^ really means 

Prologue xxxvii 

is undoubtedly that we have not yet reached that stage of democratic 
advancement which is strong enough to condemn certain glaringly 
anti-democratic acts as crimes. In a democracy, race hatred, advocated 
by a public official, would be a crime; and this, especially because it 
would have no positive social or economic value. Orson Welles seems to 
have sensed this when in August 1946, on a national radio broadcast, 
he said: "In a people's world, the incurable racist has no rights. He 
must be deprived of influence in a people's government. He must be 
segregated, as he himself would segregate the leper and the insane. . . . 
Tomorrow's democracy discriminates against discrimination." To the 
same effect Wendell L. Willkie asserted in a speech on May 25, 1944: 
"Every time some race-baiter ill-treats some man in America he lessens 
the ability of America to lead the world to freedom." 

Today, however, such men as Senator Bilbo, in both the North and 
the South, should not be thought of as insane or diseased. The tremen- 
dous political power and influence which they possess did not come to 
them simply by accident or chance. Their politics reflect significantly 
the wishes and interest of that class which holds the actual power of 
the nation. For that reason, at any rate in so far as it afTects their 
careers, Welles's fulminations are like raindrops on a duck's back. 
Consider, for instance, the stark reality of the following campaign 
declaration of Senator Bilbo, reported in the New York Times, June 
30, 1946. He is describing graphically the actual state of democracy 
in the capital of the United States : 

Some niggers came to see me one time in Washington to try to get the 
right to vote there. The leader was a smart nigger. ... I told him that 
the nigger would never vote in Washington. Hell, if we give 'em the right 
to vote there, half the niggers in the South will move into Washington 
and we'll have a black government. No Southerner could sit in Congress 
under those conditions. 

Sometimes Theodore Bilbo is ridiculed, especially in the North, not 
so much because his description of American democracy is untrue, but 
because he is so brutally frank in stating the facts. In his crudity he 
exposes the motivation and nature of the ruling class which he repre- 
sents. The group of political leaders whom he characterizes know, as 
did Adolf Hitler and his group, that they are exploiting a real social 
opportunity — a national or international need — for in the Congress of 
the United States they are, in addition to their own concern, a decided 
asset to the great business interests of the North. 

Moreover, the anti-democratic violence which they control is not 
merely that sufficient to secure the seeming illegal, sporadic beating 

xxxviii Prologue 

and lynching of a helpless Negro; it is in substance the organized 
militia of the states and the Army of the United States. To recognize 
this, one has only to imagine an actual situation. Suppose a number of 
Negroes, in the interest of "law and order," had come upon the scene 
in Monroe, Georgia, when two men and two women were being 
lynched and, finding themselves with the necessary force, had beaten 
down the lynchers. The result would have been a riot call to restore 
"law and order," which would have meant the armed police and 
sheriffs against the Negroes. Had the Negroes increased in number, 
the militia would have been called against them, and, if we could con- 
ceive of their increasing still, then the nearest United States armed 
forces would have been sent against them. The recent Columbia, Ten- 
nessee, riot followed somewhat a similar pattern. 

It is this assurance of the continuing availability of the armed vio- 
lence of the nation which gives confidence and authority to the anti- 
democratic class, while it produces inaction and irresoluteness in the 
advocates of democracy. Organized violence is practically all on one 
side of the table. 

Quite frequently during World War II, President Roosevelt de- 
clared there should be no "master race" irr the world as the Germans 
claimed to be, and the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, stated ex- 
plicitly that one principal purpose of the war was to eliminate 
fascism wherever found in the world. Both the "master race" ideology 
and fascism, however, are social attributes of a particular social system. 
They may not be eliminated by international war. It would seem quite 
obvious that countries like Great Britain and the United States, whose 
ruling classes are in fact master races, may not be ready to eliminate this 
reality in the world. The master^race idea and fascism can be purged 
from the social system only by a change in the system itself; and, for 
great powers, this is ordinarily a domestic undertaking. 

If this is true, then, America has a desperate problem on its hands. 
Probably in no other country of the world are the philosophies and 
practices of racial mastery so openly and tenaciously held to as in the 
South. In this case the South is not a backwood country of the United 
States; it is, in fact, to a very considerable extent, at the very head of 
the diplomatic and political destiny of the nation. It seems, therefore, 
that as the nations prepare again for war, the nature of the social sys- 
tems that are actually in question should be as clearly understood as 
possible. Perhaps it is time that the people, who finally pay the cost of 
war in lives and wealth, should be ready to examine the crucial subject 
at issue. 

Part One 


1. The Nature of Caste 


ally confronted at the very outset with the persistent query : What 
is a caste? Many earnest inquirers will not listen further to the caste the- 
orist unless he states precisely, in the beginning, what he means by the 
word "caste." The expert, thus cornered, is naturally tempted, in the 
interest of the discussion, to submit some hastily considered definition, 
hoping that it will be forgotten forthwith. But he seldom settles the 
matter so lightly. His abbreviated picture of caste usually remains to 
haunt all future commitments about the phenomenon. We shall not 
try to escape this situation, but first we shall attempt to point out cer- 
tain difficulties with respect to the formulation of a proper definition 
of caste. 

A caste cannot be defined as if it existed in social isolation or suspen- 
sion, because it is in fact an inseparable element of the society.^ The 
social relationships of any caste interpenetrate the social matrix of the 
caste system; and the caste system constitutes a type of society — the 
structure and substance of a society. Hence to think of castes as we 
would of such institutions as labor unions, churches, or guilds is to be- 
gin with a false conception. One caste cannot exist in an otherwise 
casteless society, for castes are interdependent social phenomena. In- 
deed, some question has arisen as to whether a two-caste system is pos- 
sible. We may, of course, speak of "a caste" as of "a person," but we 
should be under the same necessity for mental reservation with respect 
to the social isolation of the phenomenon. 

When our interest is an understanding of the nature of the caste 
system, then some definition of a caste is likely to be cumulatively mis- 
leading. A description of the more inclusive caste order promises to be 

^We are assuming, for the momentj that a caste system exists in India only. 

Caste, Class, and Race 

the more fruitful approach. The problem now becomes one of defining 
a caste society; this, however, presents not only the difficulty of dis- 
tinguishing the concept but also that of achieving a satisfactory mean- 
ing of the term society itself. 

The following are some noted definitions of caste or the caste system : 

... a corporate group, exclusive and, in theory at least, rigorously heredi- 
tary. It possesses a certain traditional and independent organization, a 
chief and a council, and as occasion demands it meets in assemblies en- 
dowed with more or less full authority. Often united in the celebration of 
certain festivals, it is further bound together by a common profession and 
by the practice of common customs which bear more especially upon mar- 
riage, food, and various cases of impurity. Finally, it is armed, in order 
to assure its authority, with a jurisdiction of fairly wide extent, capable 
by the infliction of certain penalties, especially of banishment, either abso- 
lute or revocable, of enforcing the power of the community. Such, briefly, 
is the caste system.^ 

A caste may be defined as a collection of families or groups of families 
bearing a common name; claiming common descent from a mythical 
ancestor, human or divine; professing to follow the same hereditary call- 
ing; and regarded by those who are competent to give an opinion as form- 
ing a single homogeneous community. The name generally denotes or is 
associated with a specific occupation. A caste is almost invariably endoga- 
mous in the sense that a member of the large circle denoted by the com- 
mon name may not marry outside of that circle, but within the circle, 
there are usually a number of smaller circles each of which is also endoga- 

The first definition by Senart does not seem to distinguish between 
caste and the caste system; indeed it appears to confuse the concepts. 
Othewise it is much like Risley's, in that they both seek to circumscribe 
the operating unit of the caste system ; and the result is somewhat arti- 
ficial. The following three definitions recognize more or less the broader 
social context of castes: 

Repulsion, hierarchy, and hereditary specialization : caste includes these 
three elements. It is necessary to consider all three if one is to have a com- 
plete definition of the caste system. We say that a society is characterized 
by such a system if it is divided into a large number of hereditarily spe- 
cialized groups, hierarchically superposed and mutually opposed; if it 
does not tolerate the principle of rising in status, of group mixture, of 
changing occupation; if it is opposed altogether to the mixture of blood, 
to advancement in social status, and to a change of vocation.^ 

^Emile Charles Marie Senart, Caste in India, trans, by E. Denison Ross, p. 20. 

^Herbert Hope Risley, The People of India, p. 67. 

*C. Bougie, Essais sur le regime des castes, 3d. ed., p. 4. 

The Nature of Caste 

A caste may be defined as an endogamous and hereditary subdivision of 
an ethnic unit occupying a position of superior or inferior rank of social- 
esteem in comparison with other such subdivisions. ° 

A society subjected to a caste system consists of a number of subdivisions 
or castes v^^hich are exclusively endogamous, which show a strong tendency 
to be socially exclusive, which perpetuate themselves hereditarily, which 
are hierarchically superposed on a basis of standard supposedly cultural, 
and which by the working of these four tendencies within the social field 
of their own delimitations may split up into more and more castes indefi- 

Dr. Mees says that his definition, immediately preceding, is based 
upon a study of definitions by previous writers. Had it included the 
characteristic of a tendency toward functional specialization, it might, 
have been as serviceable as any. At any rate, definitions are seriously 
limited as means of describing societies. They can be, at most, sug- 
gestive. Hence, we shall not add another to the already large assortment 
available. As an alternative, we shall attempt to point out certain 
salient characteristics of a caste system. 

Caste, a Cultural Phenomenon 

There seems to be a quite settled belief among the Hindus that an 
individual is bom with his caste status and that he can no more change 
this than can the proverbial leopard rearrange its spots. A powerful 
myth explaining the creation of man has served to support some belief 
in biological differentiation among castes, while a number of Western 
and East Indian writers, led by Risley, have also sought to develop a 
biological explanation of caste. The early Hindus, however, although 
their emphasis upon caste rigidity favored a logical conclusion of physi- 
cal concomitance, never attached the common present-day significance 
of physical differences as cultural determinants. 

Moreover, the Hindus believe that a man's caste is irrevocably and 
functionally dependent upon his past lives. Any possible inference of 
biological determinism, therefore, must be sharply distinguished from 
the static modern concept based upon differences in brain weight, 
pigmentation, nasal index, and so on. No visual technique has ever 
been developed among the Hindus as a means of allocating caste 
membership; and of course laboratory methods for this purpose were 
unknown among them. Thus, although the individual is bom heir to 
his caste, his identification with it is assumed to be based upon some 

''A. L. Kroeber, "Caste," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 
'Gualtherus H. Mees, Dharma and Society, p. 71. 

Caste, Class, and Race 

sort of psychological and moral heritage which does not go back to 
any fundamental somatic determinant. For example, in one of the 
early books of the Hindus we observe this moral emphasis : "When evil 
happens to a Kshatriya, there is bom in his offspring one like a 
Sudra. . . ."' 

In spite of the rationalizing beliefs of some modern Hindus, the de- 
termining force of cultural change is everywhere manifested in caste 
relationship : 

When one section of a caste develops peculiarities of any kind — a difTer- 
ent occupation, habitat or social practice, or more rarely, a different re- 
ligious cult — the tendency is for it to regard itself and to be regarded by 
the rest of the caste as something different. This feeling grows stronger 
with time, until at last it, or the main body of the caste, withdraws from 
the marriage league. The result is a new subcaste, and often in the end 
a new caste. On the other hand, when a section of one caste adopts the 
occupation characteristics of another the tendency is for it to become ab- 
sorbed in the latter.^ 

Bougie puts it graphically in saying that the caste system "has divided 
Hindu society into a considerable number of diminutive societies in 

Caste Stereotypes the Society 

The caste system provides for the ordering of groups in society oncfc 
and for all time. There is no provision for initiating change; and when 
change becomes inevitable it must be explained away. Conscious striv- 
ing among persons to enter new functional fields or to achieve advanced 
social position is taboo. The idea of progress is almost entirely absent 
in the philosophy of Hinduism. It is inimical to the caste system and 
its rationale. "The Indian, as long as he was left to himself, never knew 
progress."^" Moreover, the social order is sacred and naturally must 
not be questioned. On the subject of inertia in Hindu society William 
Crooke observes: 

The main result of the caste system is to stereotype existing conditions, 
to repress the desire of the individual to advance his own interest at the 
expense of, or in opposition to, those of the community in which he is 
included. ^^ 

''Aitareya Brahmana, VII, 29. 
^Census of India, igii, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 371. 
®C. Bougie, op. cit., p. 32. 
^"Ibid., p. 15. 

"William Crooke, Things Indian, p. 89. See also The Laws of Manu, The Sacred 
Books of the East, Vol. XXV, II, 10. 

The Nature of Caste 

The early Hindus sometimes went to great lengths in accounting for 
the naturalness of one's caste position. Note, in illustration, the strength 
of Manu's position : "A Sudra, whether bought or unbought, may be 
compelled to do servile work; for he was created by the Self-existent 
to be the slave of a Brahman. A Sudra, though emancipated by his 
master, is not released from servitude; since that is innate in him, who 
can set him free from it?"^" Even today among westernized Hindus 
some of the most powerful appeals are couched in regressive attitudes.^^ 
Such phrases as "our ancient civilization," "Hindu culture and glory," 
"our past greatness," "back to the Vedas," and so on, run like a refrain 
through the literature. Some of it, of course, is nationalistic, but it is 
principally based upon an extreme respect for tradition and abhor- 
rence for social change. The eyes of Hindus are turned toward the past; 
some of the most zealous among them see in the best of Western culture 
merely a rediscovery of certain aspects of ancient Hindu civilization. 

Social Mobility Inevitable 

Although there is a cultural presumption of fixity of social position 
within the caste system, some movement is not only possible but also 
inevitable.^* Movement may be by the individual or by the caste as a 
whole, and vertically or laterally within the system. Individual mo- 
bility, however, is rarer and more difficult. According to Ibbetson, 

The classification being hereditary, it is next to impossible for the indi- 
vidual himself to rise; it is the tribe or section of the triBe that alone can 
improve its position. ^° 

^Manu, VIII, 413-14. 

"Rene Maunier, Sociologie coloniale, p. 78. 

^^Nesfield concludes that "the number of castes in India is constantly changing, 
because every marriage union [caste] may admit new constituents or expel old ones. 
The circle of marriage unionship is not, nor ever has been, immutable. It might 
rather be compared to a circle, whose center can change its point, and whose radius 
is perpetually liable to being lengthened or contracted. This process of extension 
in one direction, followed as it usually is by contraction in another, has been at work 
for the last two thousand years at least; and thus while some castes once pros- 
perous, such as the Kathak and the Bhat, are surely but slowly dying out, and while 
others, such as the Baidya, have died out altogether, other castes, such as the 
Khattri and Kayasth, have been rising into importance in their places. When . . . 
a caste is said to die out, this does not mean that families which belonged to it 
have died or been exterminated, but either that the function peculiar to this caste 
has become useless to the outside community, in which case the families consti- 
tuting the caste are gradually dispersed into other functional or marriage unions, or 
if the function is still useful to the outside world, that some new or more energetic 
centre of activity giving rise to a new marriage circle and assuming a new title, has 
supplanted the old one. The Baidya, as Baidya, has disappeared, but his de- 
scendants are still alive under other names." John C. Nesfield, The Caste System 
of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh, p. 113. 

^°Denzil Ibbetson, Panjab Castes, p. 9. 

8 Caste, Class, and Race 

Yet instances of individuals rising into higher castes, either by their 
own effort or with the aid of others, are by no means unknown. Their 
falling into lower castes has been common. Under certain conditions, 
then, individuals may either rise or fall in caste position. "Under Hindu 
rulers persons were sometimes promoted by the Raja from one caste 
to another. This power was exercised by the Rajas of Cochin, who 
often raised men of lower caste to the rank of Nayar. A former Raja 
of Talcher in Orissa compelled his Chasa subjects to admit certain 
Goalas to their community. "^° Even marrying up as a means of personal 
advancement has been possible. E. A. Gait observes: 

Cases sometimes occur of men procuring as their wives women of a 
higher caste with a view to raising their own status. In Kumaon a Dom 
may, for a sufficient consideration, obtain as wife the daughter of a Rajput 
Khasiya. In Bombay a Kumbi who has got on in the world may by suf- 
ficient payment marry into Maratha families. ^^ 

Indeed, instances may be cited where not only women but also gifted 
low-caste men, Sudras, have been able to work their way up into high- 
ranking castes.^* These upward movements, however, though very im- 
portant for an understanding of the caste system, are highly exceptional. 
Quite frequent, on the other hand, is the occurrence of an individual's 
falling in caste position. "A considerable number of castes of inferior 
status are willing to admit outsiders of higher social position who may 
wish to join thei* community. In such cases, the newcomer is adopted 
formally as a caste-brother, much in the same way as a man who has 
no son of his body takes one by adoption." ^^ The fall, of course, is 
almost never a voluntary matter; it is at most a form of personal ad- 
justment when the alternative may be a life without any caste at all — 
terrible business at its best. The possibility of losing status by caste de- 

^"Census of India, igii. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 337. "Men of every caste have been 
known to be made Brahmans by the caprice of a chief." Senart, op. cit., p. 81. 

^^ Census of India, op. cit., p. 378. 

"G. S. Ghurye, Caste and Race in India, pp. 41, 59. 

^""Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics: "And according to the Census 
of 191 1, in the Punjab the process of degradation from Rajput to lower rank is too 
common to require proof of its existence. . . . It is not uncommon to find low 
castes admitting to their community persons of higher castes who have been excom- 
municated. . . . Members of any Hindu caste except Dom, Dhobi, and Chamar 
may gain admission to the Dosadh community by giving a feast to the heads of the 
caste, and eating pork and drinking liquor in token of their adoption of Dosadh 
usage. In the Central Provinces many of the lower castes will admit men of other 
castes of a similar social standing who wish to marry a girl of their community." 
Census of India, igii, op. cit., p. 378. See also Senart, op. cit., p. 14, and H. H. 
Risley, op. cit., p. 83 

The Nature of Caste 

motion is a characteristic evidently as old as the caste system itself, for 
it is referred to everywhere in the early literature."" 

A still more important characteristic of caste mobility is the move- 
ment of the whole or organized parts of the caste itself. The caste as a 
whole may degenerate because it adopts an occupation of lesser purity 
or some practice generally believed to be degrading.'^ Between caste 
and caste, especially between those that approximate each other in 
social status, there is a tendency to make claims and counterclaims to 
superior position. Usually the resolution of these attitudes leaves some 
new mark on the status of the castes involved. Sometimes, however, a 
caste, of its own volition, deliberately climbs a rung or two in the 
status hierarchy. 

When a caste is prosperous beyond its neighbors, its members often be- 
come discontented with the rank assigned to them, and seek to change it. 
They cannot dispute the theory that caste is permanent and immutable, 
for Hindu society will never listen to such a heterodox idea. They, there- 
fore, enlist the aid of fiction. They claim to be descended from some source 
other than that previously assigned to them; and if they can induce the 
Brahmans to endorse their claim, they often end by gaining general recog- 
nition for it, in spite of the opposition of rival castes who arc adversely 
affected by their changed status. ^- 

The adoption of "purer" habits by a caste may also raise it in 
public estimation. We shall revert to this in a later section. 

Castes May Combine or Divide 

Since the caste system rests upon cultural and not physical variates, 
two or more castes may fuse, or one caste may divide without threaten- 
ing the stability of the system. "A section of a caste [say, Saraks] takes 
to a new occupation, such as weaving, in some locality where the 
number of members of the Tanti, or regular weaving caste, is insuffi- 

^Manu, for instance, sees many situations in which a man may lose his caste 
status: "He who docs not worship standing in the morning, nor sitting in the 
evening shall be excluded, just like a Sudra, from all duties and rights of an 
Aryan." II, 103. ". . . men of these three castes who have not received the sacra- 
ment [initiation] at the proper time, become Vratyas outcasts, excluded from the 
savitri initiation and despised by the Aryans." II, 39. "A Brahman who always 
connects himself with the most excellent ones, and shuns all inferior ones, himself 
becomes most distinguished ; by an opposite conduct, he becomes a Sudra." IV, 
245. "KiUing a donkey, a horse, a camel, a deer, an elephant, a goat, a sheep, a 
fish, a snake, or a buffalo, must be known to degenerate the offender to a mixed 
caste." XI, 69. 

^Denzil Ibbetson, op. cit., p. 6. See also Gulshan Rai, "The Caste System of the 
Hindus, and Absorption of Foreign Elements Among Them," Hindustan Review, 
July 1935, pp. 8 ff. 

^^"Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 

10 Caste, Class, and Race 

cient to meet the needs of the community. This section of the Saraks 
gets known as Saraki Tanti. In course of time the persons concerned 
come to regard themselves as a subcaste of Tanti, and assimilate their 
practices to those of that caste.""^ 

Division is even more common than fusion. The sensitiveness of 
castes to internal cultural inconsistency is exemplified by the classic 
case of the oil pressers of Bengal. The Gachua Talis and Kolus are both 
oil pressers. They became separate castes when the Kolus left the 
traditional practice of soaking up the pressed oil from their mortars 
with a rag and adopted the device of making a hole in the bottom of 
the container, through which the oil was drawn off. The status of the 
Kolus is now very much lower than that of the Gachuas.^* Among the 
many causes of caste division are migration, change of occupation, the 
adoption of new religious practices, and internal group dissension. 

Classes within Castes 

With respect to other castes, the status of all members of a given caste 
or subcaste approaches equality; but within castes of any appreciable 
size, the statuses of different individuals are never all equal to one 
another. The caste is not a unity of colorless, undifferentiated individu- 
als. Indeed, the very nature of its organization entails internal differenti- 
ation. Castes of any size always have their superior and privileged 
families. Individuals within the caste may dijffer in wealth,^^ in occupa- 
tional efficiency,"^ in physical attainments,"'^ in choice of vocation 
among those to which the caste is limited,"® in political position,^^ in 
number of Vedas read, or in number of knots in the sacred cord,^° 
and so on. 

Most caste men are permitted and even encouraged to develop effi- 
ciency and dexterity in the specialty of the caste ; individuals may also 
accumulate and bequeath wealth. But innovations are usually frowned 
upon. The customary ways are sacred, and it is not uncommon for 


"See H. H. Risley, Tribes and Castes of Bengal, Vol. II, p. 307. 

^Edward W. Hopkins, "The Social and Military Position of the Ruling Caste in 
Ancient India," Journal of American Oriental Society, Vol. XIII, 1888, pp. 79-80, 
97, 103; George W. Briggs, The Chamars, pp. 55, 224. 

^^Radhakamal Mukerjee, The Foundations of Indian Economics, p. 40. 

^Abbe Jean Antoine Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies, 3d ed., 
p. 236. 

^Ibid., p. 292. 

^°Shri Shridhar Nehru, Caste and Credit, p. 148. 

^'M. A. Sherring, Hindu Tribes and Castes, Vol. I, p. 9. 

The Nature of Caste 1 1 

individuals to be punished for seemingly slight deviations in methods 
of production. "The weaver's panchayat, for instance, in some parts of 
the country prohibited for several years the use of . . . artificial dyes, 
and excommunicated artisans who dyed clothes in these colours."^^ 

Variation in status within the caste, then, is ordinarily to be expected. 
Should any group within the caste become competitive, however, and 
attempt to distinguish their common interest, the caste will be quickly 

The Caste Hierarchy 

It has been repeatedly emphasized that the caste system constitutes 
a hierarchy of social-status ranks. This hierarchy may be called the 
"structure" of the system; it is self-regulating and graduated all the 
way from top to bottom. Each caste "has its particular rank, defined 
by tradition and public opinion, and each one maintains it at all costs, 
or strives to advance itself."^" This defensive-offensive, intercaste rela- 
tionship constitutes the basis of caste rivalry. Thus we may think of 
the caste system as a number of cultural unities invidiously juxtaposed; 
and the greater the struggle for position, the more secure the structure 
as a whole. 

The significant fact of caste-status stability is not that every caste is 
ensconced in an unchallengeable social niche, but rather it is the un- 
swerving faith in a conviction that every caste has a right to such a 
position. Thus, says Bougie: "These incertitudes of the fact leave the 
principle intact; the contests themselves and the long-drawn-out strug- 
gles prove to what point these units of Hindu society are obsessed with 
the idea of right to be organized hierarchically."^^ To be sure, the 
system itself is never in question.^* 

Mutual jealousy provides the connective fabric of the caste structure, 
and its strength cannot be determined by the status of the castes in 
which it finds expression. We should expect, however, that spatial pro- 
pinquity and proximity of status between castes will tend to intensify 
the relationship. 

A scavenger, the lowest of the castes, is as proud of his birthright, and 
almost more punctilious about its rules, than a Khattri or a Kayasth. His 
arrogance has even led to a disruption within his own fraternity : for some 

^Radhakamal Mukerjee, op. cit., p. 45. 
^Emile Senart, op. cit., p. 18. 
^C. Bougie, op. cit., p. 25. 

"Unless we call attention to it, we are not here concerned with the caste system 
under the impact of Western culture. 

12 Caste, Class, and Race 

Bhangis will no longer eat what comes from their master's table, and 
these men have formed themselves into a distinct sub-caste on that basis. 
Every Bhangi despises the Chamar because he earns his living by collect- 
ing refuse. The lower castes, having no valuable monopoly to defend, have 
set up the most frivolous distinctions as grounds for despising their neigh- 

Caste rivalry usually ends in a sort of mutual antagonism rather than 
progressive advancement in the hierarchy. Indeed, any idea of such 
advancement is inimical to the system itself; hence, each caste is a 
"natural" guardian of status the positions immediately about it. 

The rights and privileges for which the Hindus are ready to fight such 
sanguinary battles appear highly ridiculous, especially to Europeans. Per- 
haps the sole cause of the contest is the right to wear slippers or to ride 
through the streets in a palanquin or on horseback during marriage festi- 
vals. Sometimes it is the privilege of being escorted on certain occasions 
by armed retainers, sometimes that of having a trumpet sounded in front 
of a procession, or being accompanied by native musicians at public cere- 
monies. Perhaps it is simply the particular kind of musical instrument suit- 
able to such occasions that is in dispute; or perhaps it may be the right 
of carrying flags of certain colours or certain devices during these cere- 
monies. Such, at any rate, are a few of the privileges for which Hindus 
are ready to cut each other's throats.^® 

Sometimes caste distinctions are based upon very slight cultural dif- 
ferences. Chungia Chamars smoke their pipes differently from other 
Chamars; Ekbaile and Kobaile are subcastes of Telis who yoke one 
and two bullocks, respectively, to their oil presses ; while the Nadha are 
distinguished by the fact that they live on riverbanks, and the Goria 
are known to make white pots but not black ones.^^ 

The shape of the caste hierarchy is unpredictable, because there is 
no universally accepted norm for judging the position of all castes in 
Brahmanic India; and the size of any caste may depend upon the 
population trend in that caste. Moreover, according to their tribal 
circumstances, persons entering the system may do so at various social 
levels. It is more accurate to think of the caste system as constituting a 

^John G. Nesfield, op. cit., p. 104. See also M. D. Altekar, "Caste System' and 
Its Relation to Social and Economic Life," Annals of the American Academy, Vol. 
CXLIV, Pt. 2, p. 183. To the same eflfect, M. A. Sherring says: "In adhering to 
certain important caste rules and distinctions, many of the lower castes are much 
more rigid than the higher castes. . . . The Chamar . . . are every whit as 
stringent and exclusive on the subject of marriage." Op. cit.. Vol. I, p. xxii. See 
also Abbe J. A. Dubois, op. cit., p. 60. 

"Ibid., p. 26. 

''G. S. Ghurye, op. cit., pp. 36-38. "The Kumbar, potters of the Maratha coun- 
try, distinguished those who make pots by hand without the wheel as Hatghades 
. . . those who use a big wheel as Thorchake . . . and those who use a small 
wheel as Lahanchake." Ibid., p. 36. 

The Nature of Caste 13 

multiplicity of hierarchies determined by custom within various geo- 
graphical areas of organization. Certain Brahmans are always at the 
top of each hierarchy, but not all varieties of Brahmans will be always 
considered as superior to all other castes in the area. The Maha-Brah- 
man, for example, is particularly inferior.^^ Risley gives the following 
broad ordering of castes in a specified region: 

In Bihar or the United Provinces the casteless tribes, Kols, Korwas, 
Mundas, and the like, who have not yet entered the Brahminical system, 
occupy the lowest place. . . . Then come the vermin-eating Musahars 
and the leather-dressing Chamars. The fisher castes, Bauri, Bind, and 
Kewat, are a trifle higher in the scale; the pastoral Goala, the cultivat- 
ing Kurmi, and the group of cognate castes from whose hands a Brahman 
may take water follow in due order, and from them we pass to the trading 
Khatris, the landholding Babhans, and the upper crust of Hindu society.^" 

For an understanding of the caste system, it could hardly be too 
strenuously emphasized that possible physical differences among castes 
do not constitute significant status indices. Hindus do recognize indi- 
vidual physical difference, but they have never developed a method of 
identifying castes according to their physical variations. "The Subar- 
nabaniks are a mercantile caste peculiar to Bengal Proper, who claim 
to be the modern representatives of the ancient Vaisya. In spite of their 
wealth and influence, their high-bred appearance, and the celebrated 
beauty of the women of the caste, their claim to this distinguished 
ancestry has failed to obtain general recognition. They are excluded 
from the ranks of Navasakha, of the nine clean Sudra castes, and none 
but Vaidik Brahmans will take food from their hands."*" 

Since it is not physical differences of groups that determine their 
position in the caste hierarchy, nor is it difference in wealth or "reli- 
gion," then what might the criterion of status be? The basis of status 
differentiation among castes appears to be cziste dharma, or the way 
of life of the caste, estimated finally by the expressed or assumed opin- 
ion of Brahmans." Each caste has a presumptive, inherited dharma in 
which vocation plays a major role. Among the incidences affecting 

^John C. Nesfield, op. cit., p. 69. 

="H. H. Risley, The People of India, p. 28. 

^''H. H. Risley, op. cit., p. 116. 

"Brahmans do not police the caste system; their influence is indirect. According 
to E. A. Gait: "The first test of the social position of a caste is whether Brahmans 
will act as its priests, and if so, what their status is in the hierarchical community. 
A Brahman loses in social estimation if he acts as a priest to any but those of 
'twice-born' rank, but he is not actually degraded from performing the priestly 
office for castes regarded as clean Sudras. Castes that enjoy the services of good 
Brahmans may thus at once be separated from those whose Brahmans are degraded. 
Similarly, those that are ministered to by degraded Brahmans rank higher than 

14 Caste, Class, and Race 

caste mobility, Risley observes that "the status of certain castes has been 
raised by their taking to infant-marriage or abandoning the remarriage 
of widows; , . . [that] the status of some castes has been lowered by 
their living in a particular locality ; . . . [that] the status of others has 
been modified by their pursuing some occupation in a special or pecul- 
iar way."^" Change in occupation itself is a most revolutionary venture 
in the life of a caste. 

Social inequality is a keynote of the caste system; it is the theme of 
the social etiquette of the Hindus/^ Therefore, we shall attenipt to 
illustrate the significance of this superiority-inferiority adjustment. 

Caste Superiority 

Although there might be some question concerning the means by 
which Brahmans gained ascendancy in the caste system, it is un- 
doubtedly established that they are superior people — not superior in 
the sense that some modern Teutonic "Aryans" claim to be, but in a 
culturally hereditary sense. Group superiority and inferiority are obvi- 
ously obverse sides of the same social phenomenon, but this fact does not 
imply a bipartite organization of the whole society. In the caste system 
Brahmans and outcastes represent the zenith and nadir, respectively, 
of this relationship ; their distance presents a social spectacle. However, 
the numerous intermediate steps of superior-inferior caste positions are 
as significant to the system as the spectacular extremes. The extremes 
are possible only because of the middle. 

Too often writers on caste discuss the system as if it constituted 
merely one superior-inferior relationship. It is very likely that if the 
latter were the case the system could never have become stabilized ; the 
society would have remained divided against itself. As it is, at any rate, 
the castes as a whole are "socially satisfied." 

Although there is an interrelationship of superior-inferior attitudes 
all the way from the dark roots to the topmost blooms of the system, the 

those that have no Brahmans at all. Another general criterion is whether the higher 
castes will take food or water from a man of the caste under consideration." 
"Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 
*^H. H. Risley, op. cit., p. 109. 

■•'By keynote we mean that there is a fundamental creed or presumption in Hindu 
society that persons are born unequal in status according to the caste to which 
they belong; this is the antithesis of the Stoic doctrine of human equality, adopted 
in Western democracies. If, in the caste system, we find subcastes with apparently 
very little, if any, difference in status, or, on the other hand, persons of vastly differ- 
ent status in a social-class system, we should probably not conclude that the pre- 
sumption is non-existent. It is this presumption of inequality in the caste system 
which sometimes sets the emotional tone for bitter subcaste rivalry on a collateral 

The Nature of Caste 15 

nature of these attitudes might be more easily perceived by describing 
particularly the extremes. The superiority of one caste over the other 
does not necessarily mean domination of one caste by the other. Once 
established, it becomes a situation of mutual expectation and willing, 
almost happy, yielding of definite privileges and deference. The rela- 
tionship is spontaneous. From this point of view the system is at peace 
with itself. Brahmans do not struggle to maintain their position; they 
are superior. On this point Dubois observes: 

The Brahmin's superiority is inherent in himself, and it remains intact, 
no matter what his condition in Hfe may be. Rich or poor, unfortunate or 
prosperous, he always goes on the principle engraved in him that he is the 
most noble, the most excellent, and the most perfect of all created beings; 
that all the rest of mankind are infinitely beneath him, and that there is 
nothing in the world so sublime or so admirable as his customs and prac- 

Indeed, Brahmans have gone beyond the purview of mortals and have 
probably succeeded in rising superior to the gods themselves. Not infre- 
quently the gods have been made to dance to their tune : 

It is by no means uncommon to hear Brahmins speak of their gods in 
terms of the most utter contempt. When they arc displeased with their 
idols they do not scruple to upbraid them fiercely to their faces, at the 
same time heaping the grossest insults upon them, with every outward ges- 
ture and sign of anger and resentment. . . . There is absolutely no limit 
to the blasphemies, curses, and abuses which they hurl at them under these 
circumstances . * ^ 

The early Hindu literature is particularly insistent on the superiority 
of Brahmans. Manu explains the basis of Brahman superiority thus: 
"From priority of birth, from superiority of origin, from a more exact 
knowledge of sacred science, and from a distinction in the sacrificial 
thread, the Brahman is lord of all classes."**' Other castes are graded 

**Abbe J. A. Dubois, op. cit., p. 304. See also C. Bougie, op. cit., pp. 23 and 182. 
"Brahmans find it unnecessary to proclaim their authority as Brahmans. But, if 
anyone fails to recognize the existence of this authority, he is reminded of it so 
effectively that he does not err again." Charlotte V. and William H. Wiser, Behind 
Mud Walls, p. 20. 

**Dubois, op. cit., pp. 295-96. 

^This authority elaborates further: "Man is stated to be purer above the navel 
than below; hence the self-existent (Svayambhu) has declared the purest part of 
him to be his mouth. As the Brahmana sprang from Brahman's mouth, as he was 
first-born, and as he possesses the Veda, he is by right the lord of the whole crea- 
tion. What created being can surpass him, through whose mouth the gods con- 
tinually consume the sacrificial viands? . . . The very birth of a Brahmana is an 
external incarnation of the sacred law; for he is born to fulfil the sacred law, and 
becomes one with Brahman. A Brahman, coming into existence, is born as the 
highest on earth, the lord of all created beings, for the protection of the treasury of 
the law. Whatever exists in the world is the property of the Brahmana; on account 

1 6 Caste, Class, and Race 

downward from the Brahmans in definite decrements of superiority, 
the equivalent of some stage of inferiority. 

There are, however, two marked steps in the system: :'; one be- 
tween the twice-born castes ( those who may be initiatf ) and those 
who cannot be initiated; the other between the uninitiated caste, the 
Sudras, and the outcaste castes/^ It is in the character of status of the 
latter castes that the nature of caste inferiority becomes most evident. 
As one descends the hierarchy, traits of superiority decrease and those 
of inferiority increase, until at length the base, the unsightables who 
defile by permitting themselves to be seen, is reached. Thus, the lower 
the caste, the fewer the number of castes from which it can expect defer- 
ence. This does not mean, of course, that intercaste invidiousness on 
given levels diminishes directly with inferiority of caste position. 

Caste Inferiority 

Inferiority must necessarily be as much a social fact as superiority. 
Inferiority is inherent and accepted with equanimity. The poor and 
degraded in most parts of the world have seldom been able to cham- 
pion their own cause; and in Brahmanic India, an articulate upper- 
caste champion of, say, the outcastes, the least of caste-men, has never 
been known."*^ Such a person could not be heard in the caste system 
when it is functioning normally. 

As a matter of fact, these low-caste people are not seeking a libera- 
tor ; they are almost always able to find a group lower than themselves, 
and their preoccupation becomes that of making the latter feel its 
position of even greater inferiority.*'* It is a virtue to leave low-caste 
people to their fate, for to question the justice of inferiority among 
the lowest increment of the population is to question the caste system 
itself. Unnumbered generations, living in unrelieved grossness, have 
produced human beings in Brahmanic India who can scarcely believe 
that a better state is possible for them. According to the Abbe Dubois : 

Notwithstanding the miserable condition of these wretched Pariahs, 
they are never heard to murmur or to complain of their low estate. Still 

of the excellence of his origin the Brahmana is, indeed, entitled to it all. The 
Brahmana eats but his own food, wears but his own apparel, bestows but his own 
alms; other mortals subsist through the benevolence of the Brahmana." I, pp. 
92—93, 95, 98-101. "A wise man should . . . never threaten a Brahmana, nor 
strike him even with a blade of grass." IV, 169. 

^'Vincent A. Smith, The Oxford History of India, p. 35. See also Census of 
India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. i, pp. 399, 471. 

^Again we do not speak of westernized Hinduism. 

*®Emile Senart, op. cit., p. 19; John C. Nesfield, op. cit., p. 104. 

The Nature of Caste 17 

less do they ever dream of trying to improve their lot, by combining to- 
gether, and forcing the other classes to treat them with that common 
respect which one man owes to another. The idea that he was born to be 
in subjection to the other castes is so ingrained in his mind that it never 
occurs to the Pariah to think that his fate is anything but irrevocable. 
Nothing will ever persuade him that men are all made of the same clay, 
or that he has the right to insist on better treatment than that which is 
meted out to him.^° 

Thus, attitudes of social inequality are not only strongly impressed 
upon the culture, but they are also binding upon the least privileged 
Hindus.^^ One reason for the strength of these attitudes is that they 
do not involve social conflict; they are not indoctrinated by pressure 
from some ruling power; they belong to the substance of the caste 
system. Attempts to disregard this powerful social orientation have re- 
sulted in confusion, as the British discovered more than once in their 
military experience. During the Mutiny of 1857, ranking in the army, 
on being confronted with caste ranking, was practically reversed. "The 
predominance of men of high caste, or, at least, the deference that was 
yielded to their prejudices, was fatal to discipline. A native officer of 
low caste might often be seen crouching submissively before the Brah- 
man recruit whom he was supposed to command."*" 

Even at the dawn of the stabilization of the caste system these princi- 
ples of differential respect were laid down in meticulous detail. In one 
of the law books, for instance, it is proclaimed : 

Know that a Brahmana of ten years and a Kshatriya of a hundred years 
stand to each other in the relation of father and son; but between these 
two the Brahmana is the father. Wealth, kindred, age, the due perform- 
ance of rites, and fifthly, sacred learning are titles to respect; but each 
latter-named cause is more weighty than the preceding ones. . . . The 
seniority of Brahmanas is from sacred knowledge, that of Kshatriyas from 
valor, that of Vaisyas from wealth in grain and other goods, but that of 
Sudras alone from age.®^ 

"Abbe J. A. Dubois, op. cit., p. 50. See also John P. Jones, India, Its Life and 
Thought, p. 209, and William S. Hunt, India's Outcastes, pp. 23-24. To the same 
effect. Wiser and Wiser observed during their recent study that the low-caste 
Bhangis "become so accustomed to being creatures to be avoided that they feel no 
resentment. Many a time when we have winced under the scorn or rebufTs which 
we have suffered because of the Bhangis we had in our tent or motor, we have 
observed that those who gave rise to the scorn accepted the situation com- 
placently." Op. cit., p. 62. 

^^". . . the Hindu of lower caste, even when highly educated, will still be in a 
subconscious state of sitting on the edge of the chair in the presence of a man of 
higher caste." Census of India, igai. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 233. 

'^Cambridge History of India, Vol. VI, pp. 171-72. 

"Manu, II, 135-36, 155- 

Caste, Class, and Race 

The inferiority of the lowest Brahmanic caste always comes in for 
particular emphasis,^* and the farther down we go the more certain 
the degradation. 

Caste as a Fraternity 

It is not only birth — that is to say, direct blood relationship — which 
earns caste membership for the individual. The caste member is a 
person consciously participating in an in-group with common expec- 
tations of reciprocal service. The destiny of the individual is bound up 
with that of the caste. The caste, in consideration of its welfare, may 
include or exclude any person — and this notwithstanding birth outside 
of the caste. Indeed, it is emphasized particularly among the upper castes 
that birth alone is insufficient for full caste membership. The child must 
be initiated.^" Hence, strictly speaking, among upper castes initiation is 
more significant for caste membership than birth, for, while any indi- 
vidual of alien birth may be included by initiation, native birth without 
initiation may not signify membership.^" 

The latter fact also contributes to the proposition that physical char- 
acteristics are no final determinant of a man's caste affiliation. "The 
unwritten law of Indian society requires that every Hindu, when asked, 
must mention not only the names of his paternal and maternal ances- 
tors, but must give also every point of information that he can about 
such queries as the following: (i) What is your caste? (2) What is 
your class? (3) What is your Gotra? (4) What is your Pravara? 
(5) What is your Veda? (6) What is your Sakha? (7) What is your 
Sutra?"^^ Not all these questions, of course, will be asked of caste-men 
indiscriminately; low-caste men, for example, will not have a Veda. 

""Let him not give a Sudra advice, nor the remnants of his meal, nor food 
offered to the gods; nor let him explain the sacred law to such a man, nor impose 
upon him a penance. For he who explains the sacred law to a Sudra or dictates to 
him a penance, will sink together with that man into the hell called Asamvrita." 
IV, 80—8 1 . "But let a Sudra serve Brahmanas, either for the sake of heaven, or with 
a view of both this life and the next ; for he who is called the servant of a Brahmana 
thereby gains all his ends. The service of Brahmanas alone is declared to be an 
excellent occupation for a Sudra; for whatever else besides this he may perform 
will bear him no fruit." X, 122-23. "No collection of wealth must be made by a 
Sudra, even though he may be able to do it; for a Sudra who has acquired wealth, 
gives pain to Brahmanas." X, 129. ". . . the sacrificer may take at his pleasure two 
or three articles required for a sacrifice from the house of a Sudra, for a Sudra has 
no business with sacrifices." X, 13. All from Manu. 

"^^Manu, II, 39. See also Emile SenartJ op. cit., p. 120. 

"This, of course, should not be taken to imply that the membership of castes con- 
sists largely of alien initiates. The concept of initiation is valuable here mainly for 
an understanding of the nature of the caste association. 

^'"J. H. Bhattacharya, Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 30. 

The Nature of Caste 19 

But the significant fact is that the many indices of belonging are associ- 
ational in character. 

In one sense, then, a caste may be conceived of as a brotherhood in 
which the individual is able to realize a satisfactory way of life.^* 
Denied caste affiliation, the individual becomes a rudderless ship; 
whereas, in good standing, he is never left alone to bear the full weight 
of possible misfortune. "A member of the caste, even if he is an orphan, 
is not helpless, for the caste will feed and protect him and train him 
in his craft till he can earn his livelihood. ... It is the caste on which 
he depends for help at the time of a death in the family. The caste-men 
are really his friends in need."^° 

It is this heightened emotion of interdependence, which amounts to 
almost familial concern for the welfare of one another, that accounts 
in large measure for casie stability. Although the caste is, under certain 
conditions, sensitive and temperamental, it ordinarily coheres under 
considerable hardship and vicissitude. It may even change its vocation, 
its religious orientation, even lose much of its juridical function, and 
yet remain intact, so far as its membership is concerned. 

Caste, Not Slavery 

The relationship of one caste to another is not similar to that which 
exists between master and slave. Slavery implies domination and force. 
Slavery puts the bondsmen outside the field of social competition ; the 
individual becomes chattel. Under ideal conditions "the slave is not a 
person. "°" Unlike caste-men, slaves cannot have a common purpose or 
interest; they cannot have plans or leaders; they cannot conceive of 
themselves as having a claim or right to any given status. They are 
auxiliary to their master's interest and contributory to his status.*'^ 

^"Caste adds greatly to general contentment. Everyone is pleased and proud of 
his caste; no one will part with it on any account. It may well be said that no man 
in any country has more friends in need than Indian caste-men. All the men of 
the caste, it may be considered, are their brothers' keepers. ... By the very name 
of his caste an Indian carries with him, as it were, a certificate of character and 
reputation of a certain value wherever he goes. He needs no introduction wherever 
there are caste brethren. He can depend on a hospitable reception. Caste people 
consider it a binding duty not only to provide for kinsmen and friends, but for all 
brethren in distress." A. H. Benton, Indian Moral Instruction and Caste Problems, 
p. 17. 

™R. Mukerjee, op. cit., pp. 45-46. See also Warren H. Wilson, "The Family 
and Village in India," Publications of the American Sociological Society, Vol. 
XXV, No. 4, November 1931, p. 54. 

^'Goetz A. Briefs, The Proletariat, p. 28. 

"Cf. Gunnar Landtman, The Origin of the Inequality of the Social Classes, 
p. 229. 

20 Caste, Class, and Race 

Slaves are personally, spatially immobile and cannot become organ- 
ized. Their only possible common purpose is that of revolt. They can, 
indeed, unite for purposes of insurrection, but then they become a 
power group and not a caste. Neither do masters constitute a "caste," 
for masters may be a heterogeneous group, having in common only the 
circumstance that they possess the wherewithal to purchase and mziin- 
tain a large or small number of slaves. 

Slaves are not the lowest class in a society; they are "out-classed"; 
that is, they are completely without clciss status. Moreover, slaves are 
neither the lowest caste nor outcastes. If the culture is compatible with 
slavery, as it was not in America, slaves may become highly accom- 
modated, but they will always be kept from organizing as an interest 
group. While a slave society is based upon some form of coercion, the 
caste system is maintained by consensus. The one is, at most, an accom- 
modation situation; the other is an agglomeration of assimilated cul- 
tural entities. 

2. The Nature of Caste, Continued 

Caste Assimilated 


JL^ of unwesternized Hindus is so closely geared to it that any other 
social arrangement is inconceivable. No one ever discusses, far less ques- 
tions, the caste system. Caste is the "bedrock" of Hindu life.^ "An Indian 
considers his caste as the thing of all things to him of the most impor- 
tance. Any lively fear of interference with it will arouse him, without 
hesitation and without waiting to count the cost, to take the most des- 
perate measures."^ Caste in India, then, is right — not right for Brah- 
mans only, but right and proper for all caste-men regardless of status.^ 
When one uses the norms of Western society as a basis of judgment, 
caste may seem partial or even unjust — indeed, wholly intolerable.^ But 
far from being intolerably burdened, seemingly underprivileged caste- 
men are actually proud of their caste. Consider, in illustration, the fol- 
lowing observation by J. H. Bhattacharya : 

While the Brahman guests eat, the Sudras have to wait in a different 
part of the house. It is not, however, to be supposed that Sudras take 
offense at such treatment. On the contrary, they not only wait patiently, 
but in some places, insist upon eating the leavings of the Brahmans, and 
refuse to eat anything from clean plates. ° 

*Cf. Shri Shridhar Nehru, op. cit., p. 2. 

^ A. H. Benton, op. cit., p. 26. 

^We are not thinking here of caste under the impact of Western civilization. 

*The following poetic flight of Arnold J. Toynbee shows to what extent the 
outsider might go in his criticism: "Caste is always on the verge of being a social 
enormity; but when caste is 'keyed up' by receiving a religious interpretation and a 
religious sanction in a society . . . then the latent enormity of the institution is 
bound to rankle into a morbid social growth of poisonous tissue and monstrous 
proportions." A Study of History, Vol. IV, p. 230. 

^Op. cit. "The Hindu does not feel caste a burden as the individualistic occidental 
might. To him it seems both natural and desirable, its deliberate breach unnatural, 
perverse and unforgivable. Whatever his caste, the Hindu is proud of it, as 
Westerners are of their nationality. It gives him a sense of solidarity, and he does 
not seek to escape it." A. L. Kroeber, op. cit. 

22 Caste, Class, and Race 

The caste system does not represent a social order in unstable equi- 
librium ; it represents rather a powerful norm toward which social vari- 
ations tend to gravitate ; it is capable of perpetuating itself indefinitely. 
Its practice and theory are in complete synchronism ; it does not ration- 
alize its position; its scriptures are outspoken on the point of man's 
inequality to man; it has no shortcomings; it does not excuse itself; it 
is totally excellent. 

The caste system is in the mores of all caste Hindus, not in those of 
Brahmans only ; hence a man's caste is normal and natural for him. It 
is sufficient for the realization of his spiritual and social ideals ; there is 
no individual striving or aspiration to move beyond its bounds. A man's 
acceptance of his caste does not amount to despairing resignation to 
an ill fate ; indeed, opportunity considered, it is taken with less scruple 
or thought than Occidentals accept Christianity, Resting securely upon 
universal consensus, the system is taken for granted, and it cannot be 
legislated out of existence or defeated on the battlefield.^ 

Yet the caste system is a cultural phenomenon and, as such, capable 
of and subject to change. What the sword cannot do, another culture 
might. Even in India cultures may match their strength and struggle for 
ascendancy. Before the impingement of Western culture upon the 
system there was no "caste question" in India.^ Today, however, and 
for many years since the invasion of Western ideas and artifacts, some 
Hindus are beginning to doubt or, at any rate, to discuss the principles 
of caste. The area of greatest disorganization is about the cities, the 
centers of communication. As would be expected, the leaders of social 
change are moved by different degrees of enthusiasm : 

We find progressive opinion taking two distinct positions. First, there 
are those who consider . . . caste an evil which must be overthrown and 
a better social order substituted. . . . To this class. belong the Brahmo 
Samajists and a few leaders of prominence. . . . The other position is 
held by those who would retain caste as a system, believing it to be an 
essential part of Hindu culture, but who would abolish the practice of 
"untouchability". . . . They hold that Hinduism as a system is simply 
caste, and that in abolishing caste they would also be destroying Hinduism. 
. . . To the orthodox Hindu, caste is religion.^ 

'Cf. G. S. Ghurye, op. cit., pp. 95, 161. 

''Merciless as some of the Mohammedan rulers were toward Hinduism as a 
religion, they nevertheless yielded finally to the power of caste. It might have con- 
quered them completely, had it not been for the coming of Western culture. The 
early Greek invaders did not even so much as make the system self-conscious. 

^Martin Luther Dolbeer, "The Movement for the Emancipation of Untouchable 
Classes in South India," Master's Thesis, University of Chicago, 1929, pp. 124, 125, 
135. See also William Crooke, Things Indian, p. 68, and A. C. Underwood, 
Contemporary Thought of India, p. 1 39. The advocates of "Varnashrama Dharma" 

The Nature of Caste^ Continued 23 

One probable sign of the weakening of the theoretical basis of caste 
in the light of Western culture is the defensive, rationalizing, and apol- 
ogetic attitude of many educated Indians in their discussion of the 
system. One of their most satisfying approaches is to compare "a caste" 
with some institution in Western society, such as the old guilds, or with 
social classes. The lower class, the untouchables, will then be seen as 
only somewhat worse off -than slum dwellers. And of course the impli- 
cation must follow that the evil may be remedied by giving somewhat 
more attention to the development of social-service organization. 

Probably another sign is an unwillingness to make records of caste 
membership. Official recognition of the existence of castes may tend 
to give them undesirable prestige: 

On the occasion of each successive census since 1901, a certain amount 
of criticism has been directed at the census for taking any note at all of 
the fact of caste. It has been alleged that the mere act of labeling persons 
as belonging to a caste tends to perpetuate this system, and ... a cam- 
paign against any record of caste was attempted in 1931. . . . On the 
whole, it is fair to conclude that there is a tendency for the limitations of 
caste to be loosened and for the rigid distinctions to be broken down.^ 

The indices of cultural change in India are indeed numerous; we 
make reference here, however, merely to indicate the fact that at 
certain points the system is in disintegration; and, natura,lly, where 
this is so, we may not have representative instances of the system func- 
tioning normally. 

Inequality of Man Fundamental 

In all societies of any considerable degree of complexity, it will be 
found that there has developed some means of differential treatment 
of individuals.^*^ In class societies, social equality at birth is obviously 
ruled out. In many societies, there has not even been a presumption of 
equality in the law.^^ Obviously, were groups to stand to each other in 
the relation of conqueror and conquered, or of master and slave, there 
could be no social equality. In no society, however, is the idea of social 
inequality so thoroughly organized as in the caste system. 

Not by accident are men here unequal, not by luck or by variations 
in personal effort, not because of differences in race or defeat in war, 

(the caste way of life of which Mahatma Gandhi is a sympathizer) are devoted to 
a poHcy in defense of the system against the attacks of Western ideas. See Romain 
Rolland, Mahatma Gandhi, pp. 45fT., and G. S. Ghurye, op. cit., pp. 182-83. 

"Census of India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. i, pp. 430, 432. 

^"Gunnar Landtman, The Origin of the Inequality of the Social Classes. 

"E. A. Ross, New-Age Sociology, p. 272. 

24 Caste, Class, and Race 

but because of the Divine Plan in the creation of the social order. 
Society rests upon group inequality — stable inequality; without it the 
caste system could not exist. We could not conceive, for example, of a 
situation in which lower castes moved progressively up in social status 
until the status of all castes approximated each other, and, at the same 
time, have a caste system. Long before such a possibility could be 
achieved, the caste system would have destroyed itself. 

In the caste system, group inequality is a social virtue appreciated 
by the whole hierarchy of castes ; it is the only means by which the low 
castes as well as the high can survive; and caste survival is a preoccu- 
pation of all castes. 

Therefore, in the operation of Brahmanic law, caste-men are care- 
fully distinguished. Manu declares thus: 

A Sudra who has intercourse with a woman of a twice-born caste, 
guarded or unguarded, shall be punished in the following manner : if she 
was unguarded he loses the part offending and all his property ; if she was 
guarded, everything, even his life. For intercourse with a Brahmani, a 
Vaisya shall forfeit all his property after imprisonment for a year; a 
Kshatriya shall be fined one thousand (panas) and be shaved with the 
urine of an ass. ... A Brahmana who carnally knows a guarded Brah- 
mani against her will, shall be fined. ^^ 

Although the caste system does not depend upon force for its main- 
tenance, breaches of caste etiquette are liable to be followed by terrible 
punishment. "A once-born man, who insults a twice-born man with 
gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin. 
If he mentions the names and castes of the twice-born with contumely, 
an iron nail, ten fingers long, shall be thrust red-hot into his mouth."^^ 
Today, of course, the British will have none of this in India, but the 
present awful fear on the part of low-caste men of the judgment of 
their superiors may be indicative of a frightfully brutal past. 

It is the law that high-caste men may punish their inferiors at will 
or have them punished on the spot for breaches of caste etiquette. 
"When the Kshatriyas become in any way overbearing towards the 
Brahmanas, the Brahmanas themselves shall duly restrain them."^* 

"Manu, VIII, 374-75, 378. See also 279-82, and Vishnu, V, 19-25. "I will next 
propound the manner of deciding cases of defamation. A Kshatriya having defamed 
a Brahmana, shall be fined one hundred (paras) ; a Vaisya, one hundred and fifty 
or two hundred ; a Sudra shall suflfer corporal punishment. A Brahmana shall be 
fined fifty (paras) for defaming a Kshatriya; in the case of a Vaisya the fine shall 
be twenty-five (paras) ; in the case of a Sudra, twelve." Manu, VIII, 266-68. 
Incidentally this is a Hindu form of wergild. 

"Manu, VIII, 270-71. 

"Manu, IX, 320. See also XI, 31-35. 

The Nature of Caste, Continued 25 

Even to this day it is well within the prerogative of high-caste men to 
administer corporal punishment to their inferiors. 

Eating Habits 

Among the many marks which distinguish castes, eating habits are 
significant. The ritual of eating is both religious and social. What a 
man eats and how he eats it affect not only his status as a caste-man 
but also the welfare of his soul. "The foolish man who, after having 
eaten a Shaddha-dinner, gives the leavings to a Sudra, falls headlong 
into the Kalasutra hell."^° Persons of some of the lower castes may 
pollute the meal of other caste-men by merely looking upon it;^° and 
conversely, foods may be utterly ruined if at mealtime men of certain 
upper castes happen to see certain low-caste men, or a dog, for ex- 
ample. "There are abundant proofs that the repast has kept a religious 
meaning for the Hindus. The Brahman avoids eating at the same time 
or out of the same vessel not only with a stranger or an inferior, but 
even with his own wife and his yet uninitiated sons."^^ 

The status of commensals, of course, is of prime importance. The 
rule is that persons of different castes may not eat together. 

A Kshatriya who comes to the house of a Brahmana is not called a guest. 
. . . But if a Kshatriya comes to the house in the manner of a guest, the 
householder may feed him . . . after the above-mentioned Brahmanas 
have eaten. Even a Vaisya and a Sudra who have approached his house in 
the manner of guests, he may allow to eat with his servants, showing 
thereby his compassionate disposition.^^ 

There is a tendency for social distances to become narrowed among 
persons who eat together, and this fact is not limited to Hindu society. 
But it has been recognized from earliest times in Brahmanic India, and 
every device and fiction have been developed to keep tables apart. 
However, there may be breaches of the rules of commensality, espe- 
cially among the lower castes, without resulting in loss of caste identity. 

"Manu, III, 249. 

"Emile Senart, op. cit., p. 93. 

"Ibid., p. 181. The practice of separate eating may assume an aspect so deeply 
religious as to constitute in itself the principal overt barrier between social groups. 
"Ordinarily, no doubt, when people will not eat together, still less will they inter- 
marry. But this is not always the case. Among the Agarwals, for instance, members 
of different religious sects intermarry but do not eat together. At marriage the 
wife is formally admitted into her husband's sect, and must in future have her 
food cooked separately when she stays with her own people." H. H. Risley, op. cit., 
P- 153- 

"Manu, III, 110-12. 

26 Caste, Class, and Race 

In comparing the rigidity of these rules with those against intermar- 
riage, Senart says : 

Speaking generally, we may take it that only those may eat together who 
are allowed to intermarry. . . . The twelve sections of the Kayasths of 
Bengal may no more eat in company than they may permit alliances with 
one another. However, all things considered, the prohibition here is less 
strict. Many sections of castes between which marriage is unlawful do not 
refrain from sharing meals together. Moreover, custom in this respect 
varies from one part of the country to another, still more than marriage 

Furthermore, what a caste-man eats may be a mark of his general 
caste position. Only low-caste men eat meat and drink liquor. Among 
some orthodox castes there is probably no greater offense than that of 
eating beef. This has been known to be the one act which may result 
in final and irrevocable excommunication. Upper-caste Hindus are 
vegetarians; but, while many castes eat animal flesh, the lowest alone 
eat beef. "There are castes whose touch defiles the twice-born, but who 
refrain from the crowning enormity of eating beef; while below these 
again, in the social system of Upper India, are the people like Chamars 
and Doms who eat beef and various sorts of miscellaneous vermin. ""° 
We may repeat, then, that both the kind of food and his table com- 
panions may be of vital concern to a man's caste."^ 

Caste and Subcaste 

Failing to differentiate between the caste and the subcaste has re- 
sulted in no little confusion in discussions of the caste system. The caste 
and the subcaste may be so significantly different that reference to one 
when the other is meant may be totally misleading. The caste includes 
the subcaste; ordinarily the subcaste, not the caste, is the endogamous 
unit; usually the subcaste, not the caste, is organized; the individual is 
mainly identified with the subcaste. 

One caste may include more than a thousand subcastes, or it may be 
without any subcaste whatever. When the latter is the case, the caste, as 
a social phenomenon, is identical with the subcaste. The larger the 
number of subcastes and the larger the geographical area over which 

"E'mile Senart, op. cit., p. 39. 

^H. H. Risley, op. cit., p. 112. See also Senart, op. cit., pp. 47-50. Upper-caste 
Hindus also "severely disapprove" the use of spiritous liquors. 

^^Like many other caste practices, the application of eating restrictions may be 
reciprocal : "Their authority is so absolute that Santals — a very low caste in Bengal 
— have been known to die of hunger in times of famine rather than touch food even 
prepared by Brahmans." Ibid., p. 39. 

The Nature of Caste, Continued 27 

they are spread, the more the caste tends to be destitute of those at- 
tributes which characterize the subcaste. In order, consequently, that 
this discussion may not be burdened with modifying statements, we 
shall assume that all castes have subcastes, or that castes without sub- 
castes are in fact sociological subcastes. 

The caste is a potential interest group which may become organized 
for political action. This interest may be so vaguely operative that it is 
possible for a caste to have had a history of hundreds of years without 
ever knowing, precisely, the number and distribution of its subcastes, 
far less ever coming together for any concerted purpose. It is also true 
that subcastes may hold subcastes of the same caste in greater social 
disdain than subcastes of other castes. However, in any given area of 
communication, social change may affect the common occupation of 
many subcastes, or the status of all subcastes claiming a common orig- 
inal heritage may be threatened, '' in which case the caste or part of it 
comes together to defend itself. Indeed, it may come together as an 
interest group for aggressive purposes also. 

We should expect the status of all subcastes to approximate each 
other, but this is not always so. Some of the larger castes have subcastes 
over large areas of India, and these subcastes may have widely different 
positions in the different district hierarchies."^ Moreover, within the 
same hierarchical area a large caste, such as the Brahmans, may have 
subcastes with statuses varying almost as widely as the status amplitude 
of the social hierarchy itself.^* 

~"The decision as to what does, and what docs not, constitute a caste is largely 
a matter of degree. In practice, cases will arise where it is difficult to conic to a 
decision. The word Brahman is a case in point. There are numerous communities 
claiming this designation which not only do not intermarry, but are widely separated 
from each other in respect of race, status, and social customs. But they all have the 
same traditional occupation and the same reputed origin; and there can be no 
doubt that, both in their own eyes and in those of the public, these links constitute 
a bond which, when a broad view is taken, overshadows the secondary distinctions 
that actually exist." Census of India, igii, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 367. (Italics added.) 
The use of the word "secondary'" here may be misleading. In saying "these links," 
traditional occupation and reputed origin, "constitute a bond which overshadows 
the secondary distinctions," the meaning is that even the distinctions derived from 
the powerful elementary forces of subcaste cohesion: endogamy, status, and custom 
— particularly the actual occupation — may not be sufficient to nullify such indices 
of reputed caste membership as common origin and traditional occupation. In this 
citation the subcaste tics are taken for granted, while emphasis is put upon those 
apparently nebulous symbols of belonging which give the subcaste its claim of 
inclusion within the caste. 

■'"On this point G. S. Ghurye may be misleading in holding that "the status, in 
the hierarchy, of any sub-caste depends upon the caste." Op. cit., p. 20. 

"'"The social position of Brahmans is . . . infinitely varied, and it is extremely 
difficult to arrange in order of respectability people who practice such diversity of 
function. The highest in the list of those devoted to religious functions are those 
priests who profess to celebrate the purest Vedic ritual j next come those who pre- 

28 Caste, Class, and Race 

The caste has no established form of government or organization for 
control of the subcaste; it neither limits nor directs the formation of 
new subcastes. 

The caste, unless it has no subcastes, is not endogamous ; the subcaste 
is the endogamous unit. In some localities, however, intermarriage re- 
strictions across subcaste lines are less rigid than across caste lines.^^ 
Yet the fact remains that endogamy is of prime importance to the sub- 
caste and relaxation of this rule is exceptional. Referring to the Brah- 
mans, Crooke observes: 

It would ... be an error to suppose that all Brahmans form one 
homogeneous caste ... a group the members of which freely intermarry 
and dine together. On the contrary, the subordinate groups classed under 
the general name of Brahman are practically independent of each other, 
and occupy very different positions in the social scale. ... In Bombay 
. . . the Brahmans number slightly over a million, and have more than 
two hundred groups, none of which intermarries with another. In Madras 
the Brahmans fall into six linguistic groups, each speaking a different 
tongue, and no member of any one group will marry or eat with a member 
of another.-'" 

tend to perform any priestly function of the higher class. In the third grade come 
astrologers, family priests, and the lower class of instructors in the mysteries of 
Hinduism. The fourth group includes the sorcerer, the fortune-teller, the river- 
priest, who all frequent places of pilgrimage, and the temple priest. In the lowest 
rank of all comes the funeral-priest, who is an object of abhorrence to all respectable 
Hindus." William Crooke, op. cit., p. 24. See also John C. Nesfield, op. cit., p. 49. 
Manu's declaration that a Brahman is a Brahman regardless of circumstances might 
be a factor responsible for that more or less vague sense of solidarity which we( call 
a common interest, but it has not been able to identify the status of all Brahmans. 
The Lawgiver says: "A Brahmana, be he ignorant or learned, is a great divinity. 
. . . Thus, though Brahmanas employ themselves in all sorts of mean occupations, 
they must be honored in every way, for each of them is a great deity." IX, 317, 319. 

In a discussion of this point the question was put to the writer: "Is any 
Kshatriya or Vaisya subcaste ever of higher status than the lowest Brahman sub- 
caste?" The evidence of the data seems to indicate an affirmative answer. But we 
should remember that this classification is mythical or at most suggestive only. There 
are no four castes in India in which all the other subcastes can meaningfully claim 
membership. The Maha-Brahman and the funeral-priest are apparently not higher 
in status than, say, subcastes of landowners or of writers. Certain subcastes of Brah- 
mans are always on top, but there are those called Brahman who are virtually un- 

Thus, according to Danzil Ibbetson, ". . . there are Brahmans who are looked 
upon as outcasts by those who under the fourfold classification would be called 
Sudras. . . . The Maha Brahman, so impure that in many villages he is not allowed 
to enter the gates, the Dakaut and Gujrati, so unfortunate that other Brahmans 
will not accept offerings at their hands, are all Brahmans, but are practically differ- 
entiated as distinct castes by their special occupations." See the Census of India, 
1901, Vol. I, ethnographic appendices, pp. 234, 237. 

^^Census of India, 191 1, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 368. 

"William Crooke, op. cit., p. 63. M. A. Sherring listed more than 1,880 subcastes 
of Brahmans and about 600 subdivisions of Rajputs. Op. cit., xxii— xlvi. See also 
Emile Senart, op. cit., p. 15. 

The Nature of Caste, Continued 29 

The individual's devotion and loyalties go to the subcaste. The sub- 
caste, then, is the unit of social organization within the caste system. 
By unit of social organization we mean the fundamental point of social 
reference in the individual's life organization ; in so far as his caste status 
is concerned, his subcaste is what he is. The caste has a greater variety 
of occupations than the subcaste; indeed, we should expect it to be 
more heterogeneous with respect to any given characteristic than the 
subcaste. The latter is the more responsible entity, and it is to the sub- 
caste that we most commonly refer when discussing the characteristics 
of the caste system. Elsewhere in this study also, when we speak of "the 
caste" — unless we modify the statement, or it is clearly apparent that 
a subcaste could not be meant — we shall be referring to the subcaste. 

Social Distance and Purity 

Social distance, or the tendency of individuals or groups to keep 
other individuals or groups outside of a certain socio-psychological 
aura of the former's individuality, is intensified in India by the idea of 
impurity or defilement. Social distance has become an important part 
of Hindu religious ritual. It is the individuating factor among castes; 
it formalizes their interdependence. Says Bougie: "These specialized 
groups are not only superposed, but opposed. The power which ani- 
mates the Hindu is a force of repulsion which holds the bodies separate 
and causes each to fall back within itself."'^ Max Weber puts it 
strongly: "Caste means, from the point of view of the group, the en- 
hancement and carrying over of the idea of social distance into religion 
or, more particularly, magic.""^ 

The doctrine of purity has given to social distance among castes an 
important physical aspect as well. The violence with which the in- 
tegrity of the body of one caste-man has been protected from the con- 
taminating presence of other caste-men is curtly suggested by Manu : 
"A low-caste man who tries to place himself on the same seat with a 
man of high caste shall be branded on the hip and banished, or the 
king shall cause his buttock to be gashed."'^ 

Thus, in Brahmanic India social distance is involved with the idea of 
impurity and means more than a psychological barrier which limits the 
possibility of certain individuals identifying their aspirations and prob- 
lems ; it is also a prophylaxis against spiritual and bodily defilement. Of 
significance for an understanding of the caste system is the fact that the 

^C Bougie, op. cit., p. 25. 

^Max Weber, Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Religionssoziologie, Vol. II, p. 44. 

^Manu, VIII, 281. 

30 Caste, Class, and Race 

power of one man to pollute another depends upon the number of de- 
grees below, in caste position, the former is from the latter. 

It is not always clear whether a man's power to pollute establishes his 
caste status, or whether it is his position which renders him contamina- 
tive. In some communities, however, a man's ability to pollute is known 
to the nearest foot. "The lower a man's caste the more polluting he is, 
and the higher he is, the more sensitive he is to pollution. A Brahman 
in Malabar is polluted if an outcaste comes within ninety paces of him, 
but a man a little lower is not polluted if the outcaste keeps fifty paces 
away."^° Even among the lowest castes, the outcastes, pollution may 
result from intercaste contact.^^ Under these conditions, of course, com- 
munal segregation becomes a necessity; indeed, the use of a common 
road is frequently impossible. 

The inferior-superior relationship of a caste, then, may be stated in 
terms of its purity. A caste is pure or impure according to its hierarchical 
position.^' Our purpose here is not to indicate that one group of Hindus 
is considered pure and another impure. Such a concept would not only 
be contrary to fact, but also inconsistent with principles of caste. The 
feeling for purity is atomized and interlays the numerous castes of the 
hierarchy. It is this idea of a purity-impurity matrix rather than that of 
a dichotomy which is significant for an understanding of the system. 

Further, it should be made quite clear that purity among Hindus, so 
far as it concerns human beings, does not mean purity of blood or 
purity of "race"; it means purity of caste.^^ Therefore, there can be 
no ocular proof of purity, unless the whole circumstance of the indi- 
vidual indicates his caste or bodily state.^* 

^William S. Hunt, India's Outcastes, p. 19. Risley states further that: "In 
Madras, especially, the idea of ceremonial pollution by the proximity of a member 
of an unclean caste has been developed with much elaboration. Thus the table 
of social precedence attached to the Cochin report shows that while a Mayar can 
pollute a man of a higher caste only by touching him, people of the Kammalan 
group, including masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, and workers in leather, pollute 
at a distance of twenty-four feet; toddy-drawers at thirty-six feet; Pulayan or 
Cheruman cultivators at forty-eight feet; while in the case of the Paraiyan 
(Pariahs) who eat beef, the range of pollution is stated to be no less than sixty- 
four feet." Ibid., p. 112. 

^;ibid., p. 33- 

^"Shridhar V. Ketkar, The History of Caste in India, Vol. I, p. 23. 

^"The darker complexioned 'southern' Brahman claims to enjoy a higher rank 
of purity than his brethren of northern India. Unlike the Brahman of the North, 
there is no lower caste from whose hands he will take water. The reason which he 
will assign for this is that Hinduism in the North has been defiled by one conqueror 
after another, while, isolated in the South, it has remained untouched by foreign 
influence." William Crooke, op. cit., p. 65. See also John C. Nesfield, op. cit., p. 108. 

^Modern literature on caste, however, is overburdened with allusions or explicit 
statements to the effect that upper castes have been contriving to keep their "blood 

The Nature of Caste, Continued 31 

The feeling for social purity probably got its impetus during the 
early struggle for superiority and pre-emption of function between 
Brahmans and Kshatriyas; it evidently has its rationale in the Brah- 
manic argument for exclusiveness at the sacrifice. A good deal of the 
Brahman's importance was achieved by comparing his position with 
the extreme inferiority of other persons : 

The Brahmanical law-books . . . repeatedly emphasize the law that 
members of the lowest castes (the Sudras and the Chandals) may not 
learn the sacred texts; for impure as a corpse, as a burial place, is the 
Sudra, therefore the Veda may not be recited in his vicinity.^^ 

One significant aspect of the purity belief is that certain persons and 
objects considered holy may be defiled by bringing them into contact 
with the vulgar. The priests had achieved not only blessedness for them- 
selves but also inviolability for all that they could call theirs; more- 
over, they capitalized their position by developing a "science of purity" 
for all society.^" In connection with the sacrifice, the early Vedic litera- 
ture is critical about the possible participation of different castes, while 
it ostracizes low-caste persons altogether : 

The Sudra is prohibited from milking the cow for the milk required at 
the . . . oblation to Agni; and the Satapatha Brahmana forbids a man 
who has been consecrated for a sacrifice to speak to a Sudra at all . . . 
At the sacrifice itself the Sudra could not be present in the "hall"; he is 
definitely classed in the Satapatha Brahmana as unfit for sacrifice. . . . 
At the Pravargya rite the performer is not allowed to come in contact 
with a Sudra. ^^ 

Thus, the spirit of exclusiveness is sanctioned in the religious atti- 
tudes of the people. Purity is ceremonial rather than hygienic ;^^ and 

pure," meaning, of course, their "white blood." The great emphasis upon purity 
in the sacred books of the Hindus is assumed to refer willy-nilly to purity of racial 
stock. Sec, for example, Shridhar V. Kctkar, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 92. 

^Maurice Wintcrnitz, A History of Indian Literature, trans, by S. Ketkar, Vol. 
I, PP- 35-36. 

^""Their code is a part of the Vedas, which none but the Brahmans may teach; 
the secret of uncleanness is therefore in their possession, and forms by no means 
an inconsiderable branch of their trade, as it is requisite for the inhabitants on 
every emergency to apply to some expounder of the Vedas. The Brahmanic ex- 
pounder of the laws of impurity is therefore a person of no little consequence in 
the commonwealth, his aid being required much more frequently than that of a 
physician." Essays Related to the Habits, Character and Moral Improvement of 
Hindus, pp. 256-57. 

'"Arthur Anthony Macdonell and Arthur Berriedale Keith, Vedic Index, Vol. II, 
pp. 389-90. See also Census of India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 496. Compare the 
Mosaic law in Numbers i : 49—54, where the Levites are given exclusive charge of 

e tabernacle, with the injunction: "The stranger that comcth nigh shall be put 


^On this point the Abbe Dubois is clear: ". . . to cornplete his purification, he 
is made to drink the panchagavia. These words . . . signify literally the five things 

32 Caste, Class, and Race 

the state of impurity may exist either between members of one caste, 
between members of different castes, or between human beings and 
any other objects. Intercaste impurity is permanent, but intracaste im- 
purity may be cleansed.^® A Pariah, as the outcaste person is some- 
times called, could not wash himself clean ; no ceremony could remove 
his taint; he is unalterably unclean. Indeed, Vishnu insisted that he 
must do nothing to make it appear that he considers himself clean ; his 
clothes must be the discarded raiment of the dead.*" "A healthy, clean- 
minded outcaste would have to keep the prescribed distance from an 
immoral and leprous Brahman, so as to prevent the latter from being 
polluted by him.'"' 

On the other hand, individual uncleanness within the caste may be 
removed by religious acts and ritual. Of particular interest from the 
point of view of caste relationship is the fact that the lower the pol- 
luting caste, the more difficult it is to rid oneself of the pollution. For 
instance : 

When a Brahman follows the corpse of another Brahman of different 
kindred, he must purify himself by bathing, touching fire, and eating 
clarified butter. If the corpse belongs to the military caste, the Brahman 

or substances derived from the body of the cow: namely, milk, curds, ghee, dung and 
urine, which are mixed together. The last-named, urine, is looked upon as the most 
efficacious for purifying any kind of uncleanness. I have often seen superstitious 
Hindus following the cows to pasture, waiting for the moment when they could 
collect the precious liquid in vessels of brass, and carrying it away while still warm 
to their houses. I have also seen them waiting to catch it in the hollow of their 
hands, drinking some of it and rubbing their faces and heads with the rest." Op. cit., 
p. 43. "Nothing can equal the supposed virtues of this mixture. Brahmins and other 
Hindus frequently drink it to remove both external and internal defilements." 
Ibid., p. 153. See also p. 125 and Manu XI, 92. 

Another possibility, especially from the point of view of complacency in the 
lower-caste man, is exemplified in the following admonition: "He shall not ordi- 
narily give the residue of his food to a person who is not a Brahman. When he gives 
it to such a one, he shall clean his teeth and give the food after having placed in it 
the dirt from his teeth." Sacred Books of the East, Vol. II, Pt. i. Apastamba I, 1 1, 
3'' 24. 

"Among the Hindoos health is scarcely affected [by ceremonial imcleanness] ; its 
chief effect is to incapacitate the individual for performance of religious duties. 
Ceremonial impurity is defined [as] that which invisibly occasions a suspension of 
the duties commanded in the Vedas. While a person is unclean, he can neither per- 
form his religious duties, nor partake of food with those of his own caste, nor receive 
or bestow either presents or instruction." Essays Related to the Habits, Character 
and Moral Improvement of the Hindoos, p. 245. 

"It must ... be remembered that the Hindu is given much more to seeking 
ceremonial than sanitary cleanliness. It matters not how filthy the water may be, 
chemically; if it be ceremonially clean, he uses it freely. If it be ceremonially pollut- 
ing, it is eschewed." John P. Jones, India, Its Life and Thought, p. 267. 

""It may be well to recall that we are referring here to the subcaste. There is im- 
purity between subcaste and subcaste within the same caste (e.g., among Brahmans). 

'"Vishnu, XVI, 14. 

''^William S. Hunt, op. cit., p. 1 7. See also p. 20. 

The Nature of Caste, Continued 33 

who follows it is unclean for one day; if to the commercial class, he is 
unclean two days ... if the deceased be of the servile class, for three 
days, after which he must perform one hundred Pranayamas. A Prana- 
yama is performed by closing each nostril successively, and exhaling 
breath . . . accompanied with internal meditation.*^ 

The situations in which one person may pollute another are exceed- 
ingly numerous ; therefore, we shall not attempt to list them. In the case 
of objects, the ritual of purity is also delicate and complicated. The 
cow, dog, pig, snake, monkey, water, bread, milk, ghee, clothing, 
leaves, and a host of other objects come in for specific ritualistic atten- 
tion, breaches of which may result in states of impurity.^^ 

This belief in impurity, this cultural trait which ramifies Hindu 
society, attains an extreme in the phenomenon of untouchability. The 
high-caste man will be veritably horror-stricken if by accident he should 
come into contact with a Pariah.'** But the sense of untouchability is 
not limited to two groups; it pervades the system. There is untouch- 
ability among untouchables. "The exterior castes themselves are . . . 
guilty of similar treatment to each other, and an exterior caste which 
considers itself to be on a higher social level than another exterior caste 
adopts exactly the same attitude as the higher castes do towards the ex- 
terior castes."*® Untouchability, then, is a deep-seated cultural trait of 
Hinduism. Ghurye thinks that it is the characteristic fact of Hindu 

The indication seems to be, however, that untouchability is merely a 
heightened manifestation of the larger attitude of impurity, or social 
distance made sacrosanct. The untouchable is not hated primarily ; he 
is feared for his power to defile any of certain classes of men with whom 
he may come into contact; and the unregenerated untouchable sin- 

*^Essays Related to . . . Hindoos, op. cit., p. 254. 

*^"There are some varieties of food which would be very easily polluted, e.g., 
bread made in water. Such a bread a man cannot eat at any time. He should eat it 
only after bathing and wearing a special consecrated cloth. The bread also must be 
especially prepared with such ceremonial purity. If any bread is to be left over for 
another meal, it should be kept in a select and ceremonially pure place in the house 
by a man who may be in the pure condition. . . . Bread made in milk does not 
demand so many formalities in order to guard against pollution. You can make the 
bread in milk, put it in a can of tinned brass, put it in your pocket, and go any 
place, even wearing a shoe -made of cowhide; but still the bread could not be 
polluted. Articles like Pedha, which are made of milk and sugar only, would not 
be polluted even if a Mohammedan, Christian or low-caste Hindu touched them.'' 
Shridhar V. Ketkar, op. cit.. Vol. II, p. 90, note. 

**BougIe, op. cit., p. 26. 

*^Census of India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 498. 

*""It would seem that the Hindu system is unique only in this: that it alone 
classified some groups as untouchable and unapproachable." G. S. Ghurye, op. cit., 
p. 142. Cf. Cambridge History of India, Vol. I, p. 234. 

34 Caste, Class, and Race 

cerely believes that his presence pollutes other men. Just as the intelli- 
gent, tubercular person knows that it is right to keep children away 
from his bedside, so, also, the untouchable recognizes the danger in 
other men's coming too near him. Indeed, in order to cause as little 
suffering to high-caste men as possible, he would willingly announce his 
approach when walking abroad. 

The social continuity of the phenomena of untouchability and im- 
purity is illustrated in Dr. Ghurye's observation : 

In the Maratha country a Maha — one of the untouchables — might not 
spit on the road lest a pure-caste Hindu should be polluted by touching 
it with his foot, but had to carry an earthen pot, hung from his neck, in 
which to spit. Further, he had to drag a thorny branch with him to wipe 
out his footprints and to lie at a distance, prostrate on the ground, if a 
Brahmin passed by, so that his foul shadow might not defile the holy 

Thus the impure caste-man or anything associated with him is un- 
touchable; and, of course, the greater the impurity of his caste, the 
more contaminating is his touch. Therefore, we may conclude that 
untouchability is not a unique phenomenon; it is part of a general 
attitude which serves to limit association between caste and caste ; it is 
not a conflict attitude. "They may be untouchables to the rest of their 
co-religionists, but among themselves they have degrees of untouch- 
ability and superiority."*^ This being so, one wonders about Mahatma 
Gandhi's position : 

If untouchability was a part of the Hindu creed, I should decline to 
call myself a Hindu and most decidedly embrace some other faith if it 
satisfied my honest aspirations. Fortunately for me, I hold that untouch- 
ability is not a part of Hinduism.*^ 

Of course a good question for debaters would be whether Hindus 
have a "creed." We agree with the consensus of opinion that they have 
not.®" Further, it seems that untouchability is very much a part of 
Hinduism; in fact, it belongs to the very tissue of the social structure.^^ 

*^G. S. Ghurye, op. cit., pp. ii — 12. 

*^M. D. Altekar, "Caste System and Its Relation to Social and Economic Life," 
Annals of the American Academy^ Vol. CXLIV, Pt. 2, p. 186. 

^"Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, 1 924-1 g^6, p. 12. 

™See A. C. UnderWood, Contemporary Thought of India, p. 140. 

^Says W. S. Hunt: "We must not suppose that Hindus avoid pollution merely 
because of the expense it causes. To the orthodox it really matters. It has for them 
'the nature of sin.' It affects their karma, and therefore, their status in their next 
life. The high-caste lady would genuinely believe that she had been made unclean, 
that her ceremonial purity had been besmirched, by the propinquity of those unclean 
outcastes if they had dared to come too near her. Ceremonial purity is, indeed, for 

The Nature of Caste, Continued 35 

It is an indispensable complement of the religion of caste, by which 
alone the psychic stability of the caste hierarchy has been achieved. 

Some twenty-five hundred years ago Manu had a system of purity 
worked out with almost mathematical exactness. In order that Brah- 
mans might attain their extreme superiority, there had to be extremely 
inferior men. We might mention that Gandhi himself, who knows the 
Christian Gospels well, is still unable to rise very far beyond the prin- 
ciples of impurity and its logical extreme, untouchability. The Ma- 
hatma would probably do the impossible: remove untouchability but 
otherwise maintain the caste system intact. °" 

the reason just mentioned, the Hindu's most prized possession." India's Outcastes, 
p. 16. 

■^""I do not regard inter-dining and inter-marriage as an essential to the removal 
of Untouchability. I believe in Varnashram Dharma [caste principles]. ... In my 
Ashram, Dudhabhai, one of the 'untouchable' inmates, dines with the rest without 
any distinction. But I do not recommend to anybody outside the Ashram to follow 
this example. . . . the reform contemplated in the untouchability movement does 
not obliterate the restrictions as to inter-dining and inter-marrying. I cannot recom- 
mend wholesale abolition of these restrictions. ... I want to remove untouchability 
because its removal is essential for Swaraj [home rule], and I want Swaraj." 
Mahatma Gandhi, op. cit., pp. 649-51. 

On April 29, 1947, the Indian Constituent Assembly "outlawed untouchability." 
It should be interesting to observe the way in which this law affects caste-men of 
different degrees of orthodoxy. 

3, Religion and Caste 


JL \/ fabric of Hindu culture that some special consideration of it 
seems indispensable. It is well known that India is a country of re- 
ligions, and that not only contradictory beliefs but also primitive and 
advanced systems exist side by side. There is thus no such thing as the 
Hindu religion. There are certain aspects of Hinduism, however, which 
remain fairly stable throughout the culture. 

The Meaning of Hinduism 

In Brahmanic India there is no word for religion because everything 
is religious. Hinduism is the customary way of life of the Hindus made 
sacrosanct. Art, technology, law, science, and learning are inseparable 
from religion ; and from this point of view, Indian culture is primitive/ 
According to the Abbe Dubois; 

There is not one of their ancient usages, not one of their observances, 
which has not some religious principle or object attached to it. Everything, 
indeed, is governed by superstition and has religion for its motive. The 
style of greeting, the mode of dressing, the cut of clothes, the shape of 
ornaments and their manner of adjustment, the various details of the 
toilette, the architecture of the houses, the corners where the hearth is 
placed and where the cooking pots must stand, the manner of going to bed 
and of sleeping, the forms of civility and politeness that must be observed : 
all these are severely regulated. 

During the many years that I have studied Hindu customs I cannot say 
that I ever observed a single one, however unimportant and simple, and 
I may add, however filthy and disgusting, which did not rest on some 
religious principle or other. Nothing is left to chance; everything is laid 
down by rule, and the foundation of all their customs is purely and simply 

^Emile Senart, op. cit., p. 8. 

Religion and Caste 37 

religion. It is for this reason that the Hindus hold all their customs and 
usages to be inviolable, for, being essentially religious, they consider them 
as sacred as religion itself. - 

The caste system constitutes the structure of Hinduism. Each caste 
has its own God-given dharma, its religious way of life and natural 
priesthood. Indeed, we may think of caste dharma as Hinduism in 
microcosm. An individual or group may become a Hindu by adopting 
the customary behavior of the Hindus rather than by being converted. 
In fact, it is practically impossible for an individual to become "a 
Hindu," for Hinduism does not recognize individuals; it is preoccupied 
with customs, not with habits. 

The individual, entering the system as a member of a group, may 
take up his position as a member of a new caste. He becomes Hindu 
when his caste comes to realize its particular cultural variation as God- 
given and sacred. Hinduism becomes conscious of itself not as a cul- 
tural homogeneity, but rather in interaction among an unlimited num- 
ber of dharmaic groups. Thus, a person becomes Hindu when he sees 
himself as a member of an in-group with a magico-religious way of life 
and all other groups about him as inherently different from his own — 
in other words, when his beliefs are determined by caste principles.^ 

Of course a mere verbal denial of caste may not mean that an East 
Indian is no longer a Hindu, any more than a westerner in India who 
advocates the caste system becomes a Hindu. Moreover, the outcast- 
ing of a hereditary Hindu does not of itself make him non-Hindu; 
Hinduism has made status provisions for outcastes. The very act of 
treating the outcaste as a despised non-entity is a factor determining 
caste solidarity, the sine qua non of Hinduism. 

The power of Hinduism to absorb peripheral groups lies paradoxi- 
cally in its self-centered disregard of them. It cares little, if at all, about 
the beliefs of an out-group or even about its culture; but the group 
which seeks a position of consequence in the caste hierarchy must care- 
fully respect the opinion of Brahmans or suffer the slights, ridicule, and, 
finally, the boycott of reputable castes. In this very power of repulsion 
lies the attractional force of Hinduism; in other words, the ability of 
the organized individuals to ignore, to cut alien groups dead as of no 
consequence, tends to set up a desire in the latter to assume those prac- 
tices which compel recognition. In India probably nothing but strong 
Western connections could keep such a group as the Christian mission- 

'Op. cit, pp. 30-31. See also C. Bougie, op. cit., p. 184. 

'On this point Risley is rather explicit. He concludes : "Caste rules are rigid and 
no individual can become a Hindu." Op. cit., p. 238. 

38 Caste, Class, and Race 

aries from becoming gurus and castes of Brahmans with Jesus as their 
principal god/ 

Hinduism as a Religion 

Although the entire culture of the Hindus is sacred,^ there are cer- 
tain aspects of it which contribute directly to their spiritual aspirations. 
Hinduism as a religion is a system of beliefs and doctrines developed 
about the basic principles of karma and samsara, judgment after life 
and metempsychosis. Hindus may be said to live ritualistically, but 
their lives are oriented toward these two fundamental ideas; they are 
the Hindu's answer to that question which must confront all mankind : 
What is the end and purpose of life? They embody his essential 
eschatological insight. An outstanding characteristic of this religion is 
its divorcement of ethics from its system of beliefs and practices; in fact, 
in so far as a system of ethics is concerned, Hinduism is barren. 

As we have seen, the religion of the Hindus is by no means uni- 
form. It is a far cry from the highly refined polytheistic religion of 
the Rig- Veda, with its complicated sacrifices and oblations of soma 
juice and melted butter to the gods, to the primitive animism of low- 
caste men. "Hinduism is an amorphous thing; it has been compared to 
a many-colored and many-fibered cloth, in which are mixed together 
Brahmanism, Buddhism, Demonolatry, and Christianity."^ 

*"That Hindus should be able to pay this reverence to Jesus Christ, and no objec- 
tion raised by their co-religionists, is due to the tolerance and fluidity of Hinduism. 
A Hindu can be a Christian at heart provided he is faithful to the social system 
which is Hinduism's characteristic expression. . . . No Christian missionary can 
be content with this willingness on the part of so many Hindus to give Jesus Christ 
a place, and even a high -place, in their pantheon, for the missionary enterprise 
stands or falls with the uniqueness and indispensability of Jesus Christ." A. C. Un- 
derwood, op. cit., p. 147. See also S. V. Ketkar, op. cit.. Vol. II, p. 33. The 
omnibus cultural capacity of Hinduism has been frequently referred to. See, for 
example, John P. Jones, op. cit., pp. 375-76. 

The following is said of the early Roman Catholic missionaries who sought to 
compromise with the caste system: "One missioner would be seen moving about on 
horseback or in a palanquin, eating rice dressed by Brahmans, and saluting no one 
as he went along ; another, covered with rags, walked on foot surrounded by beggars, 
and prostrated himself as his brother missioner passed, covering his mouth lest his 
breath should infect the teacher of the great." W. Strickland and T. W. M. Marshall, 
Catholic Missions in Southern India to 1865, quoted by L. S. S. O'Malley, Modern 
India and the West, p. 52. 

^John P. Jones, op. cit., p. 92. 

*John P. Jones, op. cit., p. 194. W. Crooke's statement on this subject helps to 
emphasize the fact that Hinduism is leaderless: "All these multitudinous forms of 
belief are left without any official control from its leaders. Hinduism has never 
dreamed of a Council or Convocation, a common Prayer-book, or a set of Articles 
of Belief. Each sect goes its own way, preaching its peculiar tenets, converting to 
its own standard the animists by whom it is surrounded, never combining for action 
except under the influence of some outburst of fanaticism." Op. cit., p. 252. 

Religion and Caste 39 

The religion in its upper reaches is magical and introspective, and it 
is not available to mankind as such. Brahmans have a vested interest 
in it, and its blessings cannot reach men of low status. It has no creed, 
no central power, no church; and its multiplicity of practically indi- 
viduated temples is built about community priests. 

Mysticism, an Indispensable Factor 

Through meditation and self-induced projection of personality and 
soul, the Hindu seeks integration with the universal soul substance. The 
attainment of this is his highest possible achievement;' it involves a 
method,^ the knowledge of which need not include respect for ethical 

The Hindu "studies the Universe to discover whether he can appre- 
hend and become one with the mysterious will which governs it. Only 
in spiritual unity with Infinite Being can he give meaning to his life 
and find strength to suffer and to act."" Thus in isolation, oblivious of 
men and the world, the individual attempts to move directly toward 
final salvation and bliss. Of the Brahmans, Schweitzer says: "Their 
whole endeavour was directed to piercing deeper into the secret of the 
supra-sensuous to which they drew near as priests by means of the 
incantations of sacrifice, and with which they became one in the state 
of ecstasy.'"" 

Mysticism is particularly adapted to Brahmanic culture. The final 
reabsorption of man into the super-soul Ls achieved by a "pure act of 
the spirits," and the question of a man's regard for his fellow men is of 
no particular significance. This is consistent with the functional aspects 
of the caste system. "The mystic," observes Nehru, "tries to rid himself 
of self, and in the process usually becomes obsessed with it."^^ 

'"'Our rituals and sacraments, our fasts and feasts, our social regulations and 
religious liturgies, all have had, from time immemorial, this one end in view, 
namely, to help the realization of the Absolute through the conscious spiritual 
identification of the individual self with the Universal. Our highest conception of 
salvation is, therefore, called Brahma Nirvana, which means . . . the conscious 
identification of the individual with the Universal." Bipin Chandra Pal, The Soul 
of India, p. 23. 

*On this general fact of mysticism it has been recognized that "the mystic strives 
toward a definite spiritual state and for its attainment utilizes various psychotech- 
nical methods; these methods may, however, as with the Yogis and the later 
Buddhists, acquire a special importance and as pure psychotherapy may play a 
significant role in individual and social life." "Mysticism," Encyclopedia of the 
Social Sciences. 

"Albert Schweitzer, Indian Thought and Its Development, New York, 1936, p. 
1 1. "But if we regard the contents, all mysticism down to the present is unsatisfying, 
because it denies the world and life, and has no ethical content." Ibid., p. 12. 

^"Ibid., p. 28. See also p. 117. 

"Jawaharlal Nehru, Toward Freedom, p. 243. 

40 Caste, Class, and Race 

Of course the difference in mystical tendency between Hinduism and 
other great religions is one only of degree. Even so, however, India is 
the great home of ascetics, holy men, and sannyasis. It is here that 
spiritual rumination and introspective living are developed even among 
the masses. B. Groethuysen observes the universal association of mys- 
ticism and religion but differentiates Indian mysticism from that of 
other cultures: 

Quite diiTerent is the position of mysticism in Jewish, Christian, and 
Moslem cultures, fpr here mystical tendencies conflict with other spiritual 
orientations. Scientifically grounded philosophy and the religion of faith 
oppose, each in its own way, their respective authorities to the force of 
mystical tendencies. . . . Mysticism . . . was . . . always in conflict with 
the Philosophico-scientific spirit and its striving for objectivity as well as 
with religion. The faith religion of the West was a strong bulwark against 
the penetration of any tendency to pure mysticism.^' 

Karma and Caste 

The doctrine of karma maintains that every action of an individual 
has a moral significance ; that all bad behavior is laid to his account ; 
that after death his behavior account is balanced and judgment pro- 
nounced. The individual reaps his reward either in spiritual well- or 
ill-being, in favorable or unfavorable rebirth, or in both spiritual and 
rebirth recompense. The highest spiritual achievement of man is that 
of reaching the abode of the gods, thus ending the cycle of rebirths ;^^ 
the depths of misfortune are reached by those individuals whose souls 
re-enter the world as living insects, vermin, or even inanimate objects.^* 

Although they did not always corroborate each other, the authors of 
the sacred scriptures had a detailed knowledge of the processes of trans- 
migration. Consider, for instance, Manu's eschatology: 

In consequence of many sinful acts committed with his body, a man 
becomes in the next birth something inanimate; in consequence of sins 
committed by speech, a bird or a beast; and in consequence of mental 
sins, he is reborn in a low caste. . . . Those endowed with goodness reach 
the state of gods, those endowed with activity the state of men, and those 
endowed with darkness even sink to the condition of beasts; that is the 

■^"Mysticism," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 

^'Manu says : "A Brahman who thus passes his life as a student without breaking 
his vow, reaches after death the highest abode and will not be born again in this 
world." II, 249. For a discussion of the origin of the idea of transmigration and 
karma as indicated in the Upanishads, see J. N. Farquhar, The Religious Quest of 
India, London, 1920, pp. ssfif. 

"Thus "A Brahmana who drinks the spirituous liquor called sura shall enter the 
bodies of small and large insects, of moths, birds, feeding on odure, and of destruc- 
tive beasts." Manu, XII, 56. 

Religion and Caste 41 

threefold course of transmigration. . . . Elephants, horses, Sudras, and 
despicable barbarians, lions, tigers, and boars are the middling states, 
caused by the quality of darkness.^^ 

The doctrines of karma and metempsychosis explain the justice of 
the distribution of individuals within the social structure ; it sees social 
relationship as having a divine purpose and brings the individual face to 
face with the omniscient judgment of the deity. Confronted by this 
doctrine, the individual stands alone.^® The doctrine does not explain 
the caste hierarchy. That originated in the body of the great god 
Purusha himself, and of course there could be no question about its 
wisdom. It rather gives the reason for the individual's present position 
and demonstrates the hopelessness of his trying to question the fairness 
of his caste status. It disarms him by figuratively lifting him from the 
security of his caste and making him personally responsible for his 

His caste is an imperishable social cyst through which he might pass 
only by death. ^^ At death, however, he has earned entrance into the 
same or some other caste. Therefore, the Hindu admits caste mobility 
of the individual only through rebirth. Moreover, birth in a given caste 
is no accident. The individual, on the basis of his works in a former life, 
merits his status. Indeed, it may be said that he so lived, then, that he 
consciously selected his present natal caste.^^ 

But good behavior in Brahmanic India is good caste behavior. 
Therefore, to the question, "What might a man do to be saved from an 
inferior rebirth?" the Indian answer is: "Follow in minutest detail 
your caste dharma."^^ The sacred literature has repeatedly emphasized 

"Manu, XII, 9, 40, 43. See also Emile Senart, op. cit., p. 204; in Vishnu, XLIV- 
XLV, the subject is here treated in great detail; Robert Ernest Hume, The Thirteen 
Principal Upanishads, 2d ed., pp. 52-57, 417-18 passim; H. H. Risley, op. cit., 
p. 243. The origin of this doctrine is not known, but it goes far into India's past. 
"In its earliest form it appears in the Satapatha Brahmana, where the notion occurs 
that retribution is inflicted in the next world in the guise of repeated births and 
deaths. It is developed in the Upanishads. . . . The theory of transmigration must 
have been firmly established by the time when Buddhism arose (500 B.C.), for 
Buddha accepted it without question. A curious thing, however, is that he also 
adopted the doctrine of Karma or 'actions,' which regulates the new births as 
dependent on a man's own previous deeds, although he denies the existence of 
soul altogether." A. A. Macdonell, India's Past, p. 48. See also "Brahmanism and 
Hinduism," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 

^°Cf. C. Bougie, op. cit., p. ,175. 

"This is the religious rationale of the system. It is quite clear, however, that as 
a social fact the individual may be outcasted and even initiated into other castes. 

"The ancient lawgiver was explicit on this point: "A twice-born man who recites 
these Institutes, revealed by Manu, will be always virtuous in conduct and will reach 
whatever condition he desires." Manu, XII, 126. 

'"A possible exception to this is embodied in the magic of mysticism which might 
take the individual directly to the deity even before death. 

42 Caste, Class, and Race 

to caste-men, especially low-caste men, that respect for caste duties is a 
man's primary obligation. A Sudra's hope of rebirth into a higher 
caste lies in his being a perfect Sudra in this life.^° The doctrine, then, 
is ideally pessimistic and other-worldly. It is fatalistic and provides the 
philosophical basis for caste complacency. 

Holding that a man's caste is right from the beginning, one must 
necessarily conclude that it is futile to rail at its limitations and barriers. 
In fact, the individual who becomes dissatisfied with his status is pitted 
against his own caste. He will have to assume that he has been given a 
deal less just than that of his fellows; or that, while they merit their 
particular state, he deserves some rung above them. The gravity of such 
a position makes its occurrence practically inconceivable. 

Caste and Hinduism 

Shorn of mysticism, Hinduism, as a religious philosophy, is a system 
of thought developed in explanation and justification of the function- 
ing of the caste system. The caste order is the stuff of Hindu religious 
thinking. An East Indian may call himself Mohammedan or Christian 
and, indeed, he may have adopted the latter's ethical philosophy, but if 
his fundamental beliefs are caste beliefs, he remains at peace in Brah- 
manic India. "Caste," says Bougie, "is the very core of Hindu re- 
ligion."'^ The codes of conduct are in the interest of caste; moral think- 
ing is at the service of caste; hence the tremendous stability of the 
system. Caste relationships are not only right but also sacred — and 
sacred to all Hindus, regardless of caste position."' 

Christianity and Caste 

Probably the factor which distinguishes Christianity most vividly 
from Hinduism is its ethical system. The golden-rule idea and the 
doctrine of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man could 
not possibly have unlimited currency in India. Here it is always "we 
for our caste and may the devil take the lowly" ; consequently, it has 
been said that "selfishness is stamped upon the Hindu faith." 

Christianity and Brahmanism go back to different basic premises. 
The one holds that in the beginning man was created in the likeness of 

^Manu, X, 122. 

^Op. cit., p. 169. 

""Cf. John P. Jones, op. cit., p. 199. See also Mildred Worth Pinkham, Women 
in the Sacred Scriptures of Hinduism; H. H. Risley, op. cit., p. 267; A. H. Benton, 
op. cit., p. 32; and W. E. S. Holland, The Indian Outlook, p. 25. 

Religion and Caste 43 

God, while, the other maintains that from an original being came men 
into the world originally unequal, with special emphasis upon the god's 
conscious purpose that men should fofever remain socially unequal. 

Christianity is preoccupied with the poor, the sinful, the sick, the 
lowly, the lost, the downtrodden, the exploited;"^ Brahmanism is con- 
cerned with the upper, fortunate crust of society. The blessings of the 
Hindu gods are not even available to low-caste men. That Sudra who 
attempts, by prayer, ritual, or recitation of the sacred texts, to reach the 
ear of the deity not only insults the deity, but also commits an egregious 
outrage meriting speedy punishment in this world and hereafter."* 

The deity is concerned only indirectly about the fate of low-caste 
men; he created them from his feet, or, worse still, he did not even 
sanction the creation of the outcastes; hence from the beginning he 
intended that they should be oppressed. On the other hand, Christianity 
is diametrically opposed to this point of view. Men of low status seem 
to be particularly beloved of God. On this score the following teaching 
is revealing: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of 
these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.""^ 

Hinduism is self-centered ; its gods are possessed by, and available to, 
only a certain class of men. It could not produce social reformers cham- 
pioning the cause of mankind, since a movement of this type would 
strike directly at its foundation — the caste system. The idea of "right- 
eousness" is foreign to it, and it must necessarily be non-proselyting. 
Moreover, its adherents, particularly those of the upper castes, can 
seldom be converted to other faiths. 

To be converted to Christianity, a man must give up both caste and 
caste thinking, and in India this is about as difficult a piece of business 
as one could propose. It calls for the spirit of the martyr. A man must 
give up his belief in his society while it lives about him, for religion and 
society are one in India. The high-caste man, unless he can become a 
paid leader for his conversion, has everything to lose and no earthly 
thing to gain. "The social system inflicts such tremendous penalties on 
conversion to Christianity that a convert from the higher caste is truly 
a miracle."""^ 

'"For a good discussion of this subject see George W. Briggs, The Chamars, pp. 

^Manu, IV, 8 1 passim. 

^Recall also the emphasis upon man's spiritual equality: "There is neither Jew 
noE Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female : for ye 
are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and 
heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3: 28-29. This stoic philosophy of St. 
Paul found an easy place in his conception of the teachings of Jesus. 

^he Bishop of Madras, quoted by H. H. Risley, op. cit., p. 241. 

44 Caste, Class, and Race 

The Roman Catholics, even from the time of the Abbe Dubois, saw 
the immensity of the task before the missionaries in India. Christianity 
seemed to strike at the vitak of the social order; hence the Catholics 
decided not to drive home their philosophy. The medicine might de- 
stroy the patient and probably the doctor also. Dubois believed that 
the caste system was too well established, too thoroughly ingrained in 
the lives of the people, to permit of radical disturbance. The social dis- 
organization likely to result might have been too costly in human suffer- 
ing; thus the Catholics made terms with caste, not without, however, 
arousing the criticism of many Protestant missionaries.^^ 

Christianity is a religion of optimism, altruism, and consolation; it 
permits the lowliest to rise in spirit above the most successful of wrong- 
doing men on earth. "Look at the generations of old, and see; did any 
ever trust in the Lord and was confounded? or did any abide in His 
fear and was forsaken? or whom did He ever despise, that called upon 
Him?"'^ In teaching that greatness lies in the power to serve one's fel- 
lows, Christianity tends to keep man from rising to unreachable flights 
of superiority by climbing over his fellows, exploiting and oppressing 

In contrast, the caste world is made to serve Brahmans. Through 
mysticism the Hindu may reach the deity directly. Says the Gita: 
"Even if a very Hi-conducted man worships me, not worshiping anyone 
else, he must certainly be deemed to be good, for he has well resolved." 
On the other hand, the theme of the gospels is that a man cannot know 
God if he thinks even that his brother has aught against him. We may 
conclude, then, that the religious philosophies of Hinduism and Chris- 
tianity stand upon different grounds and may be basically incom- 

Western Thought and Hinduism 

Brahmanic India has not yet reached its age of rationalism. Every- 
thing of importance concerning human life and welfare has already 
been said by the ancient sages ; the sole employment of the reason now 

^"Roman Catholicism, which has still the most numerous native Christian com- 
munity in India, has largely adopted the Hindu system and tries to utilize it in fur- 
therance of Christianity in the land! No greater mistake was ever made than this 
of trying to uphold and promulgate the meekness, the humility, the love and the 
fellowship of Christ by means of the haughty pride, the cruel hate, and the bitter 
divisiveness of caste." John P. Jones, India, Its Life and Thought, p. 143. See also 
Census of India, 1931 , Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 380. 

^Ecclesiasticus ii: 10. See also Matthew, 23. 

^°The writer is not unmindful of the frequent inconsistencies between the world 
view of Christianity and its practice. 

Religion and Caste 45 

is interpretation and rumination upon this store of sacred wisdom.^" 
The latter answers all their questions ; Hindus need only to search care- 
fully enough to find them all revealed. With reference to this Dr. Pink- 
ham observes: "It must be recognized that the acts of many Hindus 
are the result of blind adherence to the unquestioned authority of the 
sacred scriptures, rather than of a testing of traditional doctrine by 
conscience, practical observation, and experimentation."^^ 

There is no secular law, hence there can be no reasoning about social 
problems as such.^" In fact, in Brahmanic India there is no such phe- 
nomenon as "the social" as distinct from "the religious." So far as 
political thinking is concerned, the Hindu is incorrigibly aristocratic. 
We could not conceive of his originating the democratic idea, and he 
could not adopt it except at the expense of a revolution in the social 

In India the theory of "liberty, equality, and fraternity" could have 
universal meaning only as a weapon against the foreigners who in- 
vented it. Even the depressed classes could not conceive of themselves 
as aspiring to this state, for the disorganization of the social structure 
and its religious rationale must at least go hand in hand with the 
grasping of this idea by the masses.^^ Furthermore, the caste system in- 
sists on loyalty to the caste rather than to the nation or people as a 

In this chapter our purpose has not been, of course, to make an 
invidious comparison of the religion and thought of the Hindus. Yet it 
has been necessary to indicate those differences which seem significant 
for an understanding of the possibilities of Hindu culture with respect 
to Western culture. We have attempted to show that the caste system 
is supported by a system of religious beliefs probably as different from 
Christianity as the caste system itself is different from the social 
organization of the West. This done, the problem of cultural evaluation 
must be left to the reader, 

=°Cf. W. E. H. Leaky, Rationalism in Europe, Vol. I, p. 88. 

^Mildred Worth Pinkham, op. cit., p. ix. 

*^See C. Bougie, op. cit., p. 171. 

^M. K, Gandhi, very much westernized, of course, is surprised at the undemo- 
cratic attitude of Cochin, the Indian state. "There," he writes, "the repeated at- 
tempts to bring even a resolution before the Cochin Legislative Assembly asking the 
Cochin State to remove the ban on the use of public roads by untouchables was 
disallowed. An assiduous member inquired in the Cochin Legislative Assembly . . . 
'On what grounds was the use of certain roads constructed and maintained by the 
Public Works Department prohibited to untouchables?'. Reasons given without 
any sense of shame on behalf of the Cochin Government were : 'The roads are in 
close proximity to temples and palaces. There cannot be a sudden break with the 
past. Long standing customs have to be respected.' " Young India, pp. 725-26. 

4. Women, Marriage, and Caste 


JL least in so far as social change is concerned, a knowledge of the 
social position of women is necessary. In Brahmanic India women are 
at once a most powerful anchor of the caste system and the most fet- 
tered of their sex in all the world/ 

Ascendancy of Man 

The Brahmanic Indian family is intensely patriarchal. The woman 
is an adjunct,^ significant for her aid to man in working out his destiny. 
According to the religion of the Hindus, this destiny is unfulfilled at 
his death ; a son is necessary to continue the work of salvation. This is 
part of the rationale which emphasizes the unquestionable superiority 
of man over woman even before birth. John P. Jones says: "The great- 
est disappointment in the life of a Hindu woman is not to be able to 
present her lord a son to solace him in this life and to assist him through 
the valley of death." ^ 

There is in the Hindu family a strong tradition of idolization of sons. 
Such a tendency is operative in probably most other societies ; however^ 
it evidently reaches an extremity among the Hindus. The following 

■'In this discussion we are interested in the question of how the caste system is 
possible. Today, in urban India, there are Western tendencies inimical to a caste 
society. With these instances of caste in disintegration we are not particularly con- 
cerned. For a discussion of modern educational progress among East Indian women, 
see The Indian Year Book, ig3g—40, pp. 4o8fr. and for a discussion of great Indian 
women of ancient India, see Mildred Worth Pinkham, op. cit. 

"A wife is conceived of as belonging to her husband. Manu declares: "A wife, a 
son, and a slave, these three are declared to have no property; the wealth which 
they earn is acquired for him to whom they belong." VIII, 416. 

^Op. cit., p. 274. "Their welfare in the other world depends upon his having a 
son to take over from himself the sraddha ceremonies." J. N. Farquhar, The Crown 
of Hinduism, p. 85. 

Women, Marriage, and Caste 47 

exceqjt from one of the Rig-Veda Brahmanas may give us some idea 
of the antiquity of the attitude. Hariccandra Vaidhasa Aiksraka was the 
son of a king; a hundred wives were his, but he had no son from them. 
In his house dwelt Pravata and Narada ; he asked Narada : 

"What doth a man gain by a son?" 
The latter replied: 
"A debt he payeth in him, 
And immortality he attaineth, 
That father who seeth the face 
Of a son born living. 
The delights of the earth, 
The delights of the fire, 
The delights in the waters of living beings, 
Greater than these is that of a father in a son. 
By means of a son have fathers ever 
Passed over the deep darkness; 

The son is a ship, well-found, to ferry over. 

Food is breath, clothing a protection. 
Gold an ornament, cattle lead to marriage. 
A wife is a comrade, a daughter a misery 
And a son a light in the highest heaven."^ 

From infancy girls are taught man-worship; this constitutes their 
principal training, for education in a formal sense is ordinarily not al- 
lowed them. The ideal of Hindu womanhood is she who lives only to 
serve her husband — indeed, she who is most successful in deifying her 

There is no other god on earth for a woman than her husband. The 
most excellent of all the good works that she can do is to seek to please 
him by manifesting perfect obedience to him. Therein should lie her sole 
rule in life. 

Be her husband deformed, aged, infirm, offensive in his manners; let 
him also be choleric, debauched, immoral, a drunkard, a gambler; let 
him frequent places of ill-repute, live in open sin with other women, have 
no affection whatever for his home; let him rave like a lunatic; let him 
live without honor; let him be blind, deaf, dumb or crippled; in a word, 

^Harvard Oriental Series, Vol. 25, Rig-veda Brahmanas, pp. 299-300. 
^See Indian Legislative Assembly Debates, 1925, Vol. V, Pt. Ill, p. 2884. Quoted 
in Katherine Mayo, Mother India, pp. 37-38. 

48 Caste, Class, and Race 

let his defects be what they may, let his wickedness be what it may, a wife 
should always look upon him as her god, should lavish on him all her 
attention and care, paying no heed whatever to his character and giving 
him no cause whatever for displeasure. 

A woman is made to obey at every stage of her existence. As daughter, 
it is to her father and mother she owes submission; as a wife, to her hus- 
band, to her father-in-law, and to her mother-in-law; as widow, to her 
sons. At no period of her life can she consider herself her own mistress.* 

By comparing woman with "the soil in which seed is sown," Hindu 
men have further fortified their position of importance. "The seed is 
declared to be the more important; for offspring of all created beings 
is marked by the characteristics of the seed."^ Ministering to the pleas- 
ures and desires of man is the only possible legitimate vocation of 
women, and this goes so far as to make life without such employment 
a meaningless existence. 

The Suttee 

Suttee-mindedness is an extreme form of the man-centered attitude 
of Hindus. The suttee may be said to represent man's supreme achieve- 
ment in subjugating woman to his service. It is an overwhelming symbol 
of the meaninglessness of her life apart from his. Climbing onto the 
waiting pyre which presently will be an inferno, she assumes the 
stature of a goddess, her shining virtue being that she has fully ac- 
cepted the brutal fact that her life is an inseparable adjunct to that of 
her deceased master and god. 

Since, regardless of the number of wives he has, a woman's life may 
be identified with only one man, and, since women were created solely 
for the service of husbands, a widow is a woman without a purpose. 
She may not remarry, for to do so would be not only a grave insult 
but also a possible deprivation to her dead husband.* On the other 

*Abbe Dubois, op. cit., pp. 344-45, trans, from the Padma-purana. To the same 
efTect, see Manu, V, 154—60. 

■^Manu, IX, 33-36. 

*Risley thinks that the social logic behind the custom of a widow s not remarrying 
is based upon the belief that she cannot be given away twice; or, rather, that her 
husband being dead, no one can now legitimately give her away. "Her father being 
out of the question, it may be said that she may give herself in marriage. But this 
she cannot do, because she never had anything like disposal of herself. When 
young she was given away, so that the ownership over her was transferred by a 
solemn religious act to the husband; and he being no more, there is no one to give 
her away. Since Hindu marriage must take the form of a religious gift, her mar- 
riage becomes impossible." Op. cit., p. 176. This idea of the sanctity of a con- 
summate gift seems, however, too fragile a basis for a custom so widespread and 
stable as the peculiar institution of Hindu widowhood. Indeed, the Law Books seem 
to be somewhat at variance with Risley's view. "Three years let a damsel wait," says 

Women, Marriage, and Caste 49 

hand, immolating herself on the funeral pyre of her husband may have 
a double value : She may continue to be of service to him immediately 
after his death, thus saving him the inconvenience of having to remain 
wifeless until her natural death; and the act of extreme submission 
symbolized in the suttee may be an unforgettable lesson in man-worship 
to living Hindu women. 

Not love but duty is the impelling social force in the suttee.® In the 
case of a husband, the death of one wife creates only the problem of 
securing another. Indeed, the symbolic meaning of the suttee has been 
carried so far in some communities that "if a man died during an ab- 
sence from home in another country, his wife was recommended to 
take his slippers or any other article of dress and bum herself with them 
tied to her breast.'"" 

Sometimes the suttee was voluntary, but the horror of the occasion 
frequently terrified even the most convinced Hindu woman." Today 
suttee is practically abolished in India. We should expect suttee-mind- 
edness, however, to linger much longer, for it is a part of Hinduism. A 
free life among women is not compatible with a caste system. 

Conception of Woman's Nature 

With the subjugation of woman it became necessary to guard her, for 
if lower-caste men were to gain access to submissive women of upper 

Manu, "though she be marriageable; but after that time let her choose for herself 
a bridegroom of equal caste and rank. If, being not given in marriage, she herself 
seeks a husband, she incurs no guilt, nor does he whom she weds." IX, 90—91. 

*The following is one of the earliest accurate accounts of the suttee by a Western 
observer: "When the Bramenes die, all their friends assemble together, and make 
a hole in the ground, wherein they throw much wood and other things: and if the 
man be of any accompt, they cast in sweet sanders, and other spices, with rice, 
corne, and such like, and much oyle, because the fire should burn the stronger. 
Which done they lay the dead Bramenes in it: then cometh his wife with musike 
and many of her neerest friends, all singing certain prayses in commendation of 
her husband's life, putting her in comfort, and encouraging her to follow her hus- 
band, and goe live with him into the other world. Then she taketh all her jewels, 
and parteth them among her friends, and so with a cheerful countenance, she 
lapeth into the lire, and is presently covered with wood and oyle : so she is quickly 
dead, and with her husband's bodie burned to ashes: and if it chance, as not very 
often it doth, that any woman refuseth to burn with her husband, then they cut 
the haire cleane ofT from her head: and while she liveth she must never after wear 
any jewels more, and from that time she is dispised, and accounted a dishonest 
woman. This manner and custome of burning is used also by the nobels and prin- 
cipallest of the countrey, and also some marchantes." Arthur Coke Burnell, ed., 
The Voyage of John Huyghen van Linschoten to the East Indies, from English 
trans., 1598, Vol. I, pp. 249-50. 

"R. V. Russell, The Tribes and the Castes of the Central Provinces of India, 
Vol. II, pp. 369-70. 

'^For a discussion of coercive factors in the suttee, see Essays Related to . . . 
Hindoos, op. cit., pp. loflF. See also Abbe Dubois, op. cit., pp. 355-67. 

50 Caste, Class, and Race 

castes the system would be speedily disrupted. Thus the society had to 
be definitely convinced about the inborn untrustworthiness of women. 
Manu says with assurance: 

Through their passion for men, through their mutable temper, through 
their natural hcartlessness, they become disloyal toward their husbands, 
however carefully they may be guarded in this world. When creating 
them, Manu allotted to women a love of their bed, of their seat and of 
ornament, impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice, and bad conduct. 
For women no sacramental rite is performed with sacred texts; thus the 
law is settled. ^^ 

The aim is to keep a constant watch over the woman, to give her 
no opportunity to act independently,^^ and to limit very carefully her 
spatial mobility. "Carefully watch the procreation of your offspring, 
lest strange seed fall upon your soil."^* It is, then, a sacred duty of 
Indian caste-men to guard the women of the caste ; and so to this day 
there is a basic suspicion about Indian women, while not a little of 
their caste difficulties is due to reports and rumors about their sexual 
deviations. "Among the higher classes, where we might expect more 
liberality, we find less. Women are not permitted to pay visits and 
never leave home except for the house of a relative, and these journeys 
are rare, and attended with much anxiety."^^ 

In order to emphasize the perfidy of women the authors of the 
sacred literature of the Hindus warned men to guard themselves 
against seductions; indeed, in this respect one may not trust even his 
own relatives. SayS Manu : "It is the nature of women to seduce men 
in this world; for that reason the wise are never unguarded in the 
company of females. For women are able to lead astray in this world 
not only a fool, but even a learned man, and to make him a slave to 
desire and anger."^'' 

^Manu, IX, 15-18. 

^"By a girl, by a young woman, or even an aged one, nothing must be done 
independently, even in her own house. In childhood a female must be subject to 
her father, in youth to her husband; when her lord is dead, to her sons; a woman 
must never be independent. She must never seek to separate herself from her 
father, husband or sons; by leaving them she would make both her own and her 
husband's families contemptible. Him to whom her father may give her, or her 
brother, with her father's permission, she shall obey as long as he lives, and when he 
is dead, she must not insult his memory." Manu, V, 147-51. "Day and night 
women must be kept in dependence by the males of their families." IX, 2. See 
also Vishnu, XXI, i, 12-15. 

^^Sacred Books of the East, Vol. II, Pt. 2; Baudhayana, II, 2, 3, 35. 

^^Essays Related . . . to Hindoos, etc., op. cit., p. 170. 

^Manu, II, 212-15. 

Women, Marriage, and Caste 51 

The Problem of Divorce 

A good example of the hypothesis that the number of divorces in a 
country need not be an index of "familial happiness" is presented in 
the stability of the Hindu family. There is no divorce in Brahmanic 
India, but desertion is man's prerogative. There is a powerful social 
coercion against women leaving their husbands, for, should they do so, 
their future life will be defined as purposeless — a punishment extreme, 
indeed. For any action of a wife against a husband which interferes 
with the solidarity of the family, the wife will be held blamable, and 
this regardless of the role of the husband.^^ "She would rather undergo 
any suffering than testify against him in a court of law, especially as 
social opinion may not uphold her."^^ 

It has been said that in India a man marries "for his own conveni- 
ence, without any view to his wife's happiness."^^ It may be, however, 
that this end can be facilitated by looking to the happiness of his wife. 
And, in fact, Indian women are overburdened with jewelry, while 
family ritual sometimes throws a halo of honor about the wife.-° Thus, 
though they are objects of restraint and distrust, enlightened self- 
interest calls for a certain pampering of Hindu women. 

Women Not Slaves 

Of course we should be very much in error if we supposed that 
women in India consider themselves unfortunate. A social condition of 
itself is never sufficient to create unrest among a group. Poverty, hunger, 
misery, seeming oppression, and so on, may be endured, without social 
definition to the contrary, in social complacency and contentment. Like 

^'On the question of what might be done for serious wrongs of husband to wife, 
the Age of Consent Committee concluded : "After conviction, even if the punish- 
ment does not amount to imprisonment, it is not unHkely that the relations between 
the husband and the wife would be unhappy; and it may even happen that the 
husband may discard her and take another wife. Among Hindus generally there is 
no custom of divorce; and girls cannot remarry even if discarded. Moreover, if the 
husband goes to jail, the girl and her people must always bear the stigma of being 
instrumental in putting him in prison." Report of the Age of Consent Committee, 
1928-29, p. 19. 


^^ Essays Related . . . fo //jn^oo^, op. cit., p. 174. 

'"This truth of reflective happiness was recognized early: "Women must be 
honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, 
who desire their own welfare. . . . Where the female relatives live in grief, the 
family soon wholly perishes, but that family where they are not unhappy ever 
prospers. . . . Hence men who seek their own welfare should always honour women 
on holidays and festivals with gifts of ornaments, clothes, and dainty food." Manu, 
III, 55, 57, 59- (Italics added.) 

52 Caste, Class, and Race 

the least of the outcastes, persons who never knew freedom or have 
never been taught to expect it obviously cannot be oppressed by its 
denial. The group must first define the situation as socially wrong and 
inadequate before it can be so conceived by the individual.^^ 

At any rate, the place of women in Brahmanic India is everywhere — 
westernized areas excluded — considered right. On this score the society 
has attained peace with itself, and naturally no one is able to formulate 
a question about it. In fact, we should expect Hindu women themselves 
to lament the social condition of women, say, in Western society, as 
unfortunate. According to William Grooke : 

She, no less than her husband, would resent the belief that she is down- 
trodden and degraded. In a land where the affairs of life are regulated 
by custom, she is quite content to repeat the experiences of the heroines 
of old times, whose docility and reverence for the men with whom they 
were linked are an ideal which she is proud to follow. ^^ 

Another indication of the strength of the culture may perhaps be 
illustrated by the following: Out of respect for husbands, wives may 
not mention their names. Some such title as "master" or "lord" may be 
used. "In no way," says Louis H. Gray, "can one of the sex annoy an- 
other more intensely and bitterly than by charging her with having 
mentioned her husband's name. It is a crime not easily forgiven. "^^ 
Among women themselves, then, as might have been expected, man's 
superiority is propagated. Even the supreme effort at self-subordina- 
tion, the suttee, has been claimed by Hindu women as a right and 
privilege, and there are cases where considerable restraint by foreign 
officials had to be exercised in order to prevent it.^* 

The Stabilizers of the Culture 

Hindu women tend to be the keepers of custom in its pristine sim- 
plicity. Their almost universal illiteracy and the overwhelming social 
emphasis upon limitations to their emotional life leave them yet an- 
other avenue for passionate preoccupation. The Hindu woman is the 

^With reference to the individual, the Stoic Seneca puts the converse of this 
moralistically : "If what you have seems insufficient to you, then, though you pos- 
sess the world, you will yet be miserable." Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy, 
p. 109. 

"Op. cit., p. 522. "Nowadays the most obvious evidence of a man's rise in social 
estimation is that he secludes his wife." Ibid., p. 524. 

^^"Names," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 

■''"Tavernier records a case of a woman at Patra who asked permission from the 
Dutch governor to burn herself, and allowed her arm to be severely bi.rned in proof 
of her courage. General Sleeman states that in 1829 he was reluctantly forced to 
allow a woman to become a suttee, because she would otherwise have starved her- 
self to death." William Crooke, op. cit., p. 451. 

Women, Marriage, and Caste 53 

arbiter of custom for custom's sake, the unyielding anchor of Hinduism, 
the strict rote mistress of daughters-in-law, and the cryptic power be- 
hind the meticulous, irrational life of the Hindu home. Her knowledge 
of what is right is critical and fastidious; and custom, which is re- 
ligion in India, is usually stronger than any possible novel ideas of a 
father or husband.-^ "These illiterate women," Underwood comments, 
"are a drag upon progress because the women of India exert a great 
influence within their homes. They dominate their husbands and sons 
even when these have received a western education."'" Ketkar at- 
tributes the influence of pundits in present-day India to their following 
of women and men of little education. ^^ 

Hindu men have struggled in the past to produce a quiescent woman- 
hood unschooled in intellect."^ Believing her to be of a low order 
mentally and innately irresponsible, they have limited her mobility and 
ruled out the slightest possibility of romantic love. All this is con- 
sistent with a caste culture. At length, however, she has become a 
power with which even the most ambitious leader of social change in 
modern India must reckon. The educated man may now be ready for 
reform, but his womenfolk, among others, are the unlimited heirs to a 
system that brooks no progress. '** 

The Meaning of Marriage as a Factor in Caste Relationships 

It is a fact well known to students of Indian society that marriage is 
an indispensable consideration among castes. The question of the role 
of marriage in caste relationships, however, is by no means settled. The 

^°Cf. John P. Jones, op. cit., p. 258. 

™A. C. Underwood, op. cit., p. 119. Says Mohandas K. Gandhi: "I have adopted 
an untouchable child as my own. I confess I have not been able to convert my wife 
completely to my view. She cannot bring herself to love her as I do." Young India, 
p. 652. Another great leader of social change in India, Ram Mohan Ray, found 
stout opposition from his women relatives when he broke with Hindu orthodoxy: 
"From this time onward his mother opposed and persecuted him, and for some 
considerable time his wives refused to live with him on account of his heterodoxy." 
J. N. Farquhar, Modern Religious Movements in India, p. 31. 

■"Shridhar V. Ketkar, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 84. 

^For a Statistical commentary on the exceedingly small percentage of literate 
women, and on obstacles to the spread of female education, see Cambridge History 
of India, Vol. VI, pp. 345, 350. 

"°J. N. Farquhar, The Crown of Hinduism, p. 109. "Perhaps the strongest re- 
straining influence hitherto has been that of the female members of the family. 
Brought up in seclusion and without much education, and seldom leaving home, 
the women of the family are tenacious of the old observances and restrictions, and 
regard any departure from them with greatest disfavor." "Caste," Encyclopedia of 
Religion and Ethics. 

We should mention again that while this social trait of woman's subordination 
reaches some extreme in the caste system, it is not unknown in Western society. In 
the static medieval society of Europe women were also highly subordinated. 

54 Caste, Class, and Race 

caste is endogamous; if the caste includes subcastes, then the subcastes 
will be endogamous. So persistent is this characteristic of castes that 
sometimes they have been referred to as marriage circles. We know that 
intermarriage is a most potent leveler of cultures and races; so much 
so, indeed, that we might assume that no group can maintain its 
identity or solidarity if it permitted free intermarriage with out-groups. 

We may observe further that endogamy is a protective device utilized 
by social groups that feel they have some biological or cultural heritage 
to preserve. The caste prevents intermarriage so that it may isolate 
itself, and not vice versa. In India endogamy serves as a means of main- 
taining unnumbered little cystlike cultural variants invidiously juxta- 
posed. We should probably be grossly misled, however, if we were to 
think of endogamy, rather than that which its prohibition is intended 
to protect, as of primary significance. Edward Westermarck says with 
finality: "Endogamy is the essence of the caste system. "^'^ 

This point of view has actually resulted in many questionable con- 
clusions. A. H. Benton sees the social utility of sex as providing the 
need for marriage restrictions. To him, sex itself, the value of women 
to men secured in marriage, is the advantage which one caste gains 
over another in its practice of endogamy. In other words, marriage 
per se is the essential circumstance. Says this writer: 

My contention is that the system at the outset had had for its object 
the due adjustment of sexual relations. . . . The basis and starting point 
of the whole system are obviously the fact that the community consists of 
sections, the members of which are under agreement to exchange brides 
with each other on certain customary conditions. . . . All men must find 
their brides, each in that section of the population which has arranged 
for mutual interchange.^^ 

Thus a sort of contractual conservation of women, a struggle for sex 
satisfaction among men, appears to be here a dominant purpose of 
caste. Equally misleading is the idea of natural antipathy between man 
and man, which becomes explicit in a superior group's refusal to give 
its women to inferior men.^" 

^^The History of Human Marriage, Vol. II, p. 59. 

'^Indian Moral Instruction and Caste Problems, pp. 17—18. 

^Bryce's theory that "nothing really arrests intermarriage except physical" differ- 
ence will not bear critical examination. In fact, Bryce himself says: "In Morocco 
one sees every type of feature and every shade of colour, from the light yellowish 
brown pure Arab to the jet-black Negro, and all seem to stand on the same social 
level." However, "when Muslims and Christians or Jews dwell side by side, each 
race [sic] so cleaves to its own faith as to stand sharply apart from the other. Thus 
in the Turkish and Persian and Arab East there is practically no intermarriage." 
James Bryce, The Relations of the Advanced and Backward Races of Mankind, 
2d ed., pp. 18-22. 

Women, Marriage, and Caste 55 

Evidently it is not the absence of intermarriage between group and 
group which is the test of caste, but rather the type of phenomenon 
which marriage restrictions seek to isolate. The cultural values are de- 
veloped first; endogamy is primarily an isolating contrivance.^^ There- 
fore, we cannot know whether caste exists until we have studied and 
identified the form of social organization isolated. In fact, Risley has 
observed some religious sects that have succeeded in maintaining their 
integrity not by endogamy but by extremely rigid non-commensal prac- 

However castes might have originated, it is true that caste rules and 
customs are vital. Confusion of these rules results in ill-being to all 
caste members. "Their special caste rules make of their community, in 
effect, a distinct species."^'^ We should make it clear that caste bastardy 
is not a matter of blood but rather a disruptive mixture of the ordered 
life of the community. It is a consummate cultural cross in a society 
whose continuity is based upon cultural individuation. Castes, indeed, 
are cultural sanctuaries preserved from defilement by endogamy. Each 
caste has a sacred way of life, a dharma, which it calls its own, and this 
is what it seeks to protect. 

H. H, Risley and E. A. Gait conclude that "marriage is the most 
prominent factor in the caste system."^" From the same point of view, 
however, marriage is also the most prominent factor in the social-class 
system, or the race system, or any other system of group isolation. It 
may be revealing to recall that a former European king was allowed 
every social familiarity with a certain woman of plebeian descent, but 
on his marrying her was forthwith induced to abdicate. The principle 
which operated so decisively in this case is also more or less operative 
throughout the whole social-class hierarchy.'^ The greater the disparity 
in social-class status, the more rigid the sanctions against intermarriage. 

Endogamy, then, is a sort of fence behind which a variety of social 
interests and types of social organization may be protected. The group 

^An imperfect realization of this fact has led Romanzo Adams to state that: 
"Any sort of social control able to prevent interracial marriage for a long time 
cannot fail to create a caste system." See Interracial Marriage in Hawaii, p. 45. 

^Op. cit., p. 153. 

'^Vincent A. Smith, The Oxford History of India, p. 35. 

^Census of India, igoi. Vol. I, Pt. i, Sec. 692. 

^Thus, in the case of class relations, A. C. Mace emphasized the importance 
of marriage: "Apart from the commission of crimes there are few things that are 
so degrading as the inappropriate marriage. It is a much more serious matter if a 
youth marries out of his class than if he marries a woman of a different nationality 
or of a difTerent religion." "Beliefs and Attitudes in Class Relations," in Class Con- 
flict and Social Stratification, ed. by T. H. Marshall, pp. 157-160. 

56 Caste, Class, and Race 

first becomes organized about some vital social interest before it de- 
cides upon its protection by non-intermarriage isolation. The interest 
may be political, as in the case of conquerors desiring to maintain rul- 
ing status. "Government minorities, even when of the same race and 
approximately the same cultures as the governed, hold themselves 
aloof; and when their status is threatened by intermarriage they enact 
against it — the Statute of Kilkenny ( 1 366 ) forbidding the English of 
the Pale to intermarry with the Irish is typical of such legislation."^* 
Or the interest may be nationalistic as, for example, the German Nazi 
laws against intermarriage with Jews and Poles. The interest may be 
religious, as that between sect and sect. "The marriages of the faithful 
with aliens to the Catholic Faith were . . . universally forbidden at 
the close of the fourth century. . . . All marriages with those outside 
the Church were forbidden. "^^ Among some groups such as the Jews, 
it is a religio-cultural interest which is to be preserved. "With them the 
problem has been and is still primarily one of the integrity of Jewish 
home life, and therefore of the social solidarity of the Jewish people."^" 
The Jews, partly because of some "deep-seated dread of extinction," 
have achieved solidarity by isolating themselves through marriage re- 
strictions; the fact of being Jewish, however, does not tend to give them 
internal status homogeneity. 

The interest may be mainly economic as, for example, that protected 
by social-class sanctions against marriage between persons of different 
classes, or between persons of different estates.*^ It may be racial, in an 
immediate or proximate sense, as in the case of blacks and whites in 
South Africa. Finally, it may be a composite of cultural factors, as in 
the case of marriage restrictions between caste and caste in India, or of 
the ethnocentric isolation of certain foreign groups in the United States. 

Marriage restriction, then, is a dependent social phenomenon having 
as its determinant some primary social interest, which interest may 

®*Bernhard J. Stern, "Intermarriage," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 

^'Francis J. Schenk, The Matrimonial Impediments of Mixed Religions, p. 24. 

*°Julius Drachsler, Democracy and Assimilation, p. 127, note. For Jewish declara- 
tions against intermarriage see Bernhard J. Stern, loc. cit. For a discussion of en- 
dogamy among various social groups see Edward Westermarck, op. cit.. Chap. 

*"'In Madagascar there was not only clan but class endogamy. Thus among the 
Hovas the three great divisions — the nobles, the commoners, and the slaves — with 
few exceptions, could not intermarry; nor did the three difTerent classes of slaves 
marry into one another." Edward Westermarck, op. cit., p. 61. See also Ruby Reeves 
Kennedy, "Premarital Residential Propinquity and Ethnic Endogamy," and Lowry 
Nelson, "Intermarriage among Nationality Groups in a Rural Area of Minnesota," 
The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. XLVIII, March 1943, pp. 580—84, 585— 
92, respectively. 

Womerij Marriage, and Caste 57 

vary with the situation. The group initiating the restriction ordinarily 
has some apparent advantage which it seeks to preserve. In his discus- 
sion of caste formation Risley says, "The first stage is for a number of 
families, who discover in themselves some quality of social distinction, 
to refuse to give their women in marriage to other members of the 

The sanction of the dominant group is seldom, if ever, against inter- 
marriage as such; but rather against equal cultural participation. 
Where each group has de facto equal freedom to participate in the 
culture, intermarriage will not be a social problem, and of course there 
will be no social sanctions against it. Endogamy obviously may be an 
imposition. In the United States peoples of color are not endogamous 
by election. 

Caste-women may marry up without disturbing caste integrity ; such 
a relationship has been called hypergamy. 

Hypergamy, or "marrying up," is the custom which forbids a woman 
of a particular group to marry a man of a group lower than her own 
in social standing, and compels her to marry in a group equal or superior 
in rank. . . . The men of the division can marry in it or below it; the 
women can marry in it or above it.*^ 

Hypergamy is possible because of the cultural nature of caste, the 
position of women in India, and the custom of early marriage. 

Marriage, a Parental Problem 

In Brahmanic India the marriage contract is a religious one, and the 
bride and groom ordinarily have no part in its negotiation. The prob- 
lem of contracting for marriage is left solely in the hands of parents or 
guardians; therefore, no possible interest of the marital pair could 
contravene that of the parents. The interest of the parents is that of the 
family and the caste and, of course, not sex. Thus romantic love is 
virtually ruled out in India. Says the Abbe Dubois, "What we call 
love-making is utterly unknown amongst the Hindus."** Children are 
ordinarily married before they reach the age when meaningful love is 
possible, and naturally: 

The inclinations of the persons about to be married are never consulted. 
In fact, it would be ridiculous to do so amongst the Brahmins, seeing the 
age at which they marry their daughters. But even the Sudras, who often 

*^Op. cit., pp. 252-53; see also p. 70. (Italics added.) 

^'Ibid., p. 163. 

**Abbe Dubois, op. cit., p. 313. 

58 Caste, Class, and Race 

do not marry their daughters until they have attained full age, would 
never dream of consulting the tastes and feelings of their children under 
these circumstances. The choice is left entirely to the parents. That which 
chiefly concerns the young man's family is the purity of the caste of his 
future wife. Beauty and personal attractions of any kind count for nothing 
in their eyes. The girl's parents look more particularly to the fortune of 
their future son-in-law, and to the character of his mother, who after the 
marriage becomes the absolute mistress of the young wife.*^ 

In most castes parents are under strict obligation to marry their chil- 
dren early, and allowing a child to reach maturity unmarried may 
result in serious caste penalties. We should expect this, for Hindu adults 
are very much concerned with keeping their community closed. They 
cannot permit romantic marriage.*" We should also expect to find that, 
as the system developed and castes multiplied, there would be a greater 
necessity for child marriage. Cultural differences becoming less dis- 
tinct, they would naturally tend to be less convincing as barriers to 
Hindu youth. Geographically, too, we should expect the custom of child 
marriage to expand coterminously with Hinduism.*^ 

Early Marriage 

In India early marriage is prescribed particularly for females. The 
Law Books put the age of marriage for reputable men rather high, but 
for women it seems inordinately low. Manu says, for instance : "A man, 
aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him, or a 
man of twenty-four a girl of eight years of age; if the performance of 
his duties would otherwise be impeded, he must marry sooner."*® 
Moreover, the fact that widowers may remarry at will makes possible 
the marrying of older men. "It is no uncommon thing," observes Abbe 
Dubois, "to see an old man of sixty or more, having lost his first wife, 
marry for the second time a little child five or six years old, and even 
prefer her to girls of mature age."*^ 

^Ibid., p. 213. 

"^See H. H. Risley, op. cit., p. 149. 

^'"The Hindu youth has to maintain an attitude of utter indifference about every 
proposal regarding his marriage, and when any arrangement in that respect is made 
by his parents, grandparents, uncles, or elder brothers, he has to go through the 
ceremony out of his sense of duty to obey or oblige them. The selection being, in 
all cases, made by the guardian in accordance with his sober judgment, and never 
by the parties themselves in accordance with their impulses. For the time being, 
marriage out of caste is almost impossible in Hindu society." Bhattacharya, op. cit., 
p. 12. Sec also Senart, op. cit., p. 52 ; Hari Singh Gour, "Marriage Reform in India," 
Indian Affairs, Vol I, p. 11; and "Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 

«Manu, IX, 94. 

^"Op. cit., p. 212. 

Women, Marriage, and Caste 59 

Ordinarily, however, both boy and girl are married before puberty ;°° 
and, as we have seen, therein lies a significant means of controlling the 
caste system. In Brahmanic India the control of marriage by adult 
members of the family provides an effective guard against out-marry- 
ing, while the subjugation of women secures to men the final decisions 
about caste interests. Both hypergamy and permanent wiaowhood con- 
tribute also to the social ascendancy of males. 

Married State Universal 

Among Hindus marriage is not only a sacrament of primary im- 
portance but also a lifelong concern of the individual, the family, and 
the group to which he belongs. As we have already stated, the Hindu 
woman outside the married state is a rather meaningless entity, while 
an unmarried man is both socially inconvenienced and spiritually 
blamable. Marriage is not looked upon as a matter of personal predi- 
lection but as a necessity — so much so, indeed, that "among a number 
of Hindu castes, as also among the Todas of southern India, the corpse 
of a person dying unmarried is married before cremation as a necessary 
quahfication to future happiness." '^^ In India, then, every adult and a 
goodly proportion of infants are supposed to be married. Says one 
writer of wide experience : 

The first point which strikes the observer is the almost universal prev- 
alence of the married state. . . , Religion . . . which in the West makes in 
the main for celibacy, throws its weight in India almost wholly into the 
other scale. A Hindu man must marry and beget children to perform his 
funeral rites, lest his spirit wander uneasily in the waste places of the 
earth. If a high class Hindu maiden is unmarried at puberty, her condition 
brings social obloquy on her family, and on a strict reading of certain 
texts, entails retrospective damnation on three generations of ancestors. °^ 

Marriage itself, then, constitutes a social condition of extreme im- 
portance — a fact which is of some significance when comparing mar- 
riage among castes with the marital relationships existing in other 
parts of the world. 

™According to H. H. Risley, "Infant marriage is now so widely diffused as to have 
almost entirely displaced adult marriage within the limits of the caste system," Op. 
cit., p. 179. 

^Censvs of India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 405, 

^H. H. Risley, op. cit., p. 148. 

5. Occupation and Caste 

has some significant connection with caste organization, but its 
importance to the system seems to be still an open question. Perhaps a 
good deal of the difference of opinion may have its basis in the way the 
question is put. Thus we may ask: (a) Is it necessary that each caste 
have an occupation? or (b) Must every occupation have a caste? The 
problem, then, may be approached with these two points of view in 
mind. Let us consider some commitments of the early authors. 

Natural Occupations 

In perusing the early literature one is struck, first of all, by the settled 
way in which the authorities conceive of caste and occupation as natu- 
rally associated. Describing the creation of man, Manu says: "But for 
the sake of the prosperity of the world, he caused the Brahana, the 
Kshatriya, the Vaisya, and the Sudra to proceed from his mouth, his 
arms, his thighs, and his feet. . . . But in order to protect this uni- 
verse he, the most resplendent one, assigned separate duties and occu- 
pations to those who sprang from his mouth, arms, thighs, and feet."^ 
This, then, is no casual, fanciful business; the occupation of a caste 
is assumed to be as fundamental and as ancient as the social order itself. 

^Manu, I, 31, 87. 

In the last quarter of the sixteenth century a Dutch traveler and adventurer, who 
lived some years among the Portuguese at Goa, wrote: "The Indian heathens have 
a custome that no man may change nor alter trade or occupation, but must use 
his father's trade, and marrie men's daughters of the same occupation, trade or 
dealing, which is so nearly looked into, that they are divided and set apart, each 
occupation by it selfe, as countries and nations are, and so they call one another: 
for if they speake to a man, they aske him of what trade he is, whether hee bee a 
goldsmith, barber, merchant, grocer, fisherman, or such like." Arthur Coke Burnell, 
ed., The Voyage of John Huyghen van Linschoten to the East Indies, Vol. I, 
p. 231. 

Occupation and Caste 6i 

Moreover, the occupation of a group is considered a divine duty of that 
group. Hence, "a man, who is intent on his own natural work, attains 
perfection" ; and the sacred books continue to admonish the group that 
"the inborn work . . . though defective, ought not to be abandoned,"^ 

Some of the most respected authorities hold that the association of a 
group with its occupation is inherent. Thus the Gita declares: "The 
work of the Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Sudras is divided 
according to qualities bom of their own inner nature."^ Indeed, this 
authority clearly identifies virtue with function. Certain types of work 
are considered to belong to certain groups, and an individual may de- 
scend to the status of a lower group by merely following its occupation.'* 
Although the reverse of this — that is, upward mobility — is not so 
common, "there is [today] a tendency ... to relax the rule of pollu- 
tion by touch in the case of members of the untouchable castes who 
do not pursue untouchable avocations."^ 

Sometimes the authorities discard all myths and come out with a 
bold insistence that the very continuity of the social order depends upon / 
each caste's holding faithfully to its occupation. Says Manu : "The king 
should carefully compel Vaisyas and Sudras to perform the work pre- 
scribed for them ; for if these two castes swerved from their duties, they 
would throw this whole world into confusion."*' It may be that an 
understanding of the significance of occupational specialization in the 
caste system will shed further light upon the nature of Brahmanic In- 
dian culture. Indeed, it may be that we are observing here the effects 

'^The Message of the Gita, interpreted by Sri Aurobindo, ed. by Anilbaran Roy, 
i8. 45, 48. See also John P. Jones, op. cit., p. 178; and Vishnu II, 1-17. 

^The Gita, 18. 41. "Calm, self-control, askesis, purity, long-suffering, candor, 
knowledge, acceptance of spiritual truth are the work of the Brahmin. . . . Hero- 
ism, high spirit, resolution, ability, not fleeing in battle, giving, lordship . . . are 
the natural work of Kshatriya. Agriculture, cattle-keeping, trade inclusive of the 
labour of the craftsman and the artisan, are the natural work of the Vaishya. All 
work of the character of service falls within the natural function of the Sudra." 
Ibid., 18. 42-44. 

*"To Brahmans he assigned teaching and studying the Veda, sacrificing for their 
own benefit and for others, giving and accepting alms. The Kshatriya he com- 
manded to protect the people, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study the Veda, 
and to abstain from attaching himself to sensual pleasures. The Vaisya to tend 
cattle, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study the Veda, to trade, to lend money, 
and to cultivate the land. One occupation only the lord prescribed to the Sudra, to 
serve meekly even these other three castes." Manu, I, 88-91. See also X, i, and 
Vayu Purana, VIII, 166-72. 

^Census of India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 399. (Italics added.) 

"Manu, VIII, 418. "The observance of one's own duty leads on to infinite bliss. 
When it is violated, the world will come to an end owing to confusion of varnas 
and duties. Hence the king shall never allow people to swerve from their duties, for 
whoever upholds his own duty, ever adhering to the custom of the Aryas . . . will 
surely be happy both here and hereafter." Artha-Sastra, I, 3, 13-14. 

62 Caste, Class, and Race 

of the giving of religious sanction to a form of social organization which 
appeared ideally harmonious because of the ordered distribution of 
function and the apparent absence of competition among groups of 
workers — a stereotyping of division of labor/ "The chief economic sig- 
nificance of the system," says Pramathanath Banerjea, "is that it fixes 
absolutely the supply of any kind of labor. The scope given for the 
play of competition thus becomes limited, and consequently the law 
of demand and supply is rendered either inoperative or oppressive in 
its operation. When any change takes place in the economic world, 
labor is unable to adjust itself. . . . Wages and prices have very often 
to be regulated by custom or some other artificial means."* Caste 
specialization is specialization by trade, not specialization by task.^ 

From this point of view the necessity for conceiving of Hindu society 
as a system of castes becomes very obvious. There can be no caste 
isolated outside of a caste system. Castes are interdependent entities, 
and where there is imbalance among them hardship results. It is this 
functional ordering of castes which has evidently inspired and given so 
much permanence to the Purusha myth explaining the origin of the 
system from a primeval organism. The Sudra caste is inferior but none 
the less essential. "Feet are made to serve the rest of the body; they 
are inferior to the head," but a body without feet is seriously handi- 
capped — so much so that it may even perish without them. 

The Traditional Occupations of Castes 

Having discussed the early belief in the necessity for maintaining 
the caste-occupation relationship, we hasten to add that there is no 
certainty as to whether there ever were only four castes in India. As 
we shall attempt to show in another chapter, it seems likely that there 
were always much smaller and more numerous divisions. The occupa- 
tional caste names of great antiquity tend to indicate this. However, 
a caste may follow an occupation other than its traditional calling. 
Bougie asserts that today it is only rarely that we find a caste practic- 
ing the occupation designated by its name." 

'In the caste system, division of labor is the basis of economic organization; and 
the economic organization is in the interest of community welfare. In Western 
society, division of labor and specialization are competitive contrivances adopted 
with a view of maximizing profits. Hindu society could not exist without castes 
because the social order depends upon specialization; in Western society, however, 
economic specialization is simply an expedient of individual enterprisers. Cf. Alex- 
ander Gray, The Development of Economic Doctrine, p. 1 7- 

^A Study of Indian Economics, 2d ed., p. 41. 

°Cf. B. H. Baden-Powell, Village Communities in India, London, 1899, pp. 9-10. 

"Op. cit., p. 18. 

Occupation and Caste 63 

In time, then, castes may change their occupation/^ The Report 
on the Census of British India for 1881 states that "caste, beginning 
with being a bond between persons of the same occupation, had then 
become a hereditary quahfication for that occupation; as society out- 
grew, from a commercial point of view, the sphere of a monopoly of 
that sort, the caste began to expand into a variety of occupations."^^ 

Thus one caste claiming an eponymic occupation may, in fact, have 
many subcastes with different occupations, and the status of the caste 
does not seem to be a factor limiting variety of subcaste occupations. 
"It is perhaps among the Brahmans," says Senart, "that there occurs 
the most complicated mixture of occupations and confusion of trades. 
. . . As a matter of fact, people who proudly bear the title of Brahman 
and to whom everywhere this title assures great respect, may be found 
engaged in all sorts of tasks."^^ It must not be supposed, however, that 
the status of all Brahmans is the same, regardless of occupation. Noth- 
ing is farther from the truth. From the Sanauriyas, the thieving 
Brahmans of Bundelkhand, and the untouchable Maha Brahmans, 
to the sacrificial priests and gurus, there is an unbridgeable status 
chasm. ^* 

Caste as a Function of Occupation 

A number of eminent caste theorists have questioned the conclu- 
sion that occupational specialization is essential to the caste system. 
All these, however, have viewed the system in reverse. They have 

^"A general examination of the castes tabulated by occupation enables the posi- 
tion to be roughly summarized as follows: In the majority of castes, about half the 
males tabulated retain their traditional occupation; while varying numbers up to, 
but rarely exceeding, a quarter have subsidiary occupations. About a quarter or less 
of the half that have abandoned their hereditary occupations as their means of 
subsistence retain them as subsidiary'. One or two exceptions are worth stating: Of 
the Chamars, hardly more than one in thirteen retain their traditional occupation 
as the principal means of subsistence, and only one in forty as the subsidiary means. 
The Bhats again form a similar exception and not unnaturally, as the demand for 
genealogists is probably less than that for tanners. . . . On the other hand, the 
agricultural communities of Jat and Kurmi have not gone nearly so far as to 
abandon their hereditary occupation to the extent of fifty per cent." Census of India, 
iQS^y Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 296. 

^'Vol. Ill, Appendix H, Sec. cxvi. Sec also Census of India, igii. Vol. I, Pt. i, 
pp. 428-29. 

"Op. cit., pp. 35-36. See also William Crooke, op. cit., p. 63, and G. S. Ghur>'e, 
op. cit., p. 16. 

"See John C. Nesfield, op. cit., p. 74. "The Maha Brahman, so impure that in 
many villages he is not allowed to enter the gates; the Dakaut and Gujrati, so un- 
fortunate that other Brahmans will not accept offerings at their hands, are all 
Brahmans, but are practically differentiated as distinct castes because of their occu- 
pations." Denzil Ibbetson, op. cit., pp. 6-7. 

64 Caste, Class, and Race 

argued that since each occupation does not have a' caste monopolizing 
it, there could be no principle identifying occupation with caste. "If 
the current idea were correct," Risley maintains, "all cultivators, all 
traders, all weavers, ought to belong to the same caste, at any rate, 
within the same area. But everyone knows that this is not the case; 
that the same occupation embraces a whole crowd of castes, each 
of which is a closed corporation."^^ This point of view clearly inverts 
thinking about the ongoing social process. 

Each caste must have a God-given function, which fact need not 
necessarily exclude all others from so occupying themselves for all 
time and in all places. Moreover, we should also expect that over long 
periods of time old occupations may be lost and new ones developed; 
hence, no permanent group-occupation monopoly could have been 
originally formulated. There is only a strong presumption of un- 
changeability. None of these changes incident to social dynamics seems 
to contravene the principle that each caste must perform its sacred 
duty. Here, too, we must be careful not to confuse the idea of caste 
and subcaste ; it is the latter which strives to maintain its occupational 
integrity. Bougie is rather explicit on this point. He concludes that 
the fact that members of the same castes sometimes exercise different 
occupations does not in any way vitiate "the rule that each c^ste must 
have an occupation. Possible exceptions to this do not eliminate the 

There are some occupations that are so difficult to control and so 
obviously generalized callings that they tend to be avocational and sub- 
sidiary. They may serve as specialties, catchalls to failures, or staples 

^^H. H. Risley, op. cit., p. 259. See also the Imperial Gazetteer of India, new ed., 
Vol. I, p. 342, where Risley quotes Senart to this same effect, and Nripendra Kumar 
Dutt, Origin and Growth of Caste in India, Vol. I, p. 25, an echo of Risley. On 
this score the Census of India, igoi, is rather emphatic: "These figures are of much 
interest. They will, in the first place, effectively demolish any vestige which may 
remain of the idea that the functions of the South Indian castes arc still confined 
to the narrow limits laid down for them in Manu and the Vedas or by tradition, 
and that the Brahmans are still exclusively engaged in priestly duties, the trader 
castes in commerce . . . that the cobbler and smith still stick exclusively to the 
last and the anvil at which their forefathers worked for so many generations." Vol. 
I, Pt. I, Sec. 363. These figures, however, do not show the significance of the rela- 
tionship between occupation and the true caste. In India, Brahmans are not a caste, 
they are an estate. Probably there never was an agricultural or trader caste in 
India. The conclusions here necessarily confuse the idea of caste and subcaste. The 
data do not show what percentage, if any, of the members of the marriage union, 
the subcaste, follows independent occupations. 

For a rather extensive list of castes according to occupations, but not refined 
with respect to the subcastes, see E. A. II. Blunt, l^he Caste System of Northern 
India, pp. 247-52. 

"Op. cit., p. 41. 

Occupation and Caste 65 

for groups in transition ; they may serve as supplements to other occu- 
pations. Among them agriculture and trading are common examples/^ 
On the other hand, castes whose vocations call for specialized train- 
ing and skill are able to maintain a high degree of occupational stability. 
"In these . . . the industries have continued for the most part heredi- 
tary up to the present day."^® 

It is possible, then, for two distinct castes or subcastes to follow the 
same occupation — say, for example, agriculture. The significant fact 
is, however, that, no matter how many castes follow the same occupa- 
tion, each conceives of its work as belonging to itself; each conceives 
of its calling as a duty. Furthermore, agriculture and trade are fairly 
meaningless categories among castes. The basis of occupational division 
is far more subtle than these. The kind of crops, the method of plant- 
ing, the nature of goods traded, the system of measure used are among 
the many sufficient reasons for distinction between caste and caste. ^^ 

We do not mean to imply here, of course, that any group which 
follows a common occupation is, because of that fact, a caste. This 
seems to be Ketkar's belief. According to him: "The fact that the 
Chinese are a caste of laundrymen is something every American knows. 
There are also occupational castes of Negro porters and of Japanese 

^'"Any trading caste in this country' may deal in any kind of commodity that it 
prefers, and hence within the same caste every variety of trade will be found to 
exist. Thus, the element of specialty which in the case of all the Indian castes 
previously named has been the mainspring of their existence ... is here entirely 
wanting. . . . No restrictions have ever been imposed by the laws or customs of 
the Hindus through which a man belonging to any of the landed or artisan 
castes could be debarred from setting up as a trader, if it pleased him. The 
business of the trader has always been open to all comers alike. . . . Conse- 
quently, there has been a continual influx of families from the various indus- 
trial castes who have detached themselves from the ancestral caste and calling, 
but have not coalesced with each other so as to form a compact trade union of 
their own. . . . The consequence has been that, while in the case of artisans, etc., 
there is a system of clearly defined castes, each distinguished from the other by 
some hereditary peculiarity of craft, in the case of traders, almost ever>' distinction 
of caste that can be said to exist is a distinction without a difference." John C. 
Nesfield, op. cit., p. 34. See also "Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 

^'John Nesfield, op. cit., p. 103. 

■'"Charlotte V. and William H. Wiser report an interesting incident which may 
help to throw some light upon the place of occupation in the thinking of Hindus. 
Speaking of their Hindu automobile helper, Prem, they relate: "This same boy was 
walking from Mainpuri out to oxii camp. A cart passed him on the road, and one 
of its two occupants called to him to ride. The speaker was a Brahman of Karimpur. 
The second man, a Brahman of another village, demurred: 'But is he not a 
Chamar?' The first man agreed that Prem's people were Chamars, but added that 
Prem himself could hardly be called one in our village. He explained, 'Here he has 
become watchman of the Sahib's motor, and that is a job which has no caste!' No 
further objection was raised and Prem was taken in." Behind Mud Walls, pp. 55-56. 
Of course a whole caste of Chamars could not change its status thus easily; yet the 
incident reveals a type of spontaneous reasoning in v/hich the fact of occupation 
itself defined the immediate personal relationship. 

66 Caste, Class, and Race 

butlers. "^° These groups, which may have absolutely no organization, 
consensus, or common purpose, but may simply find themselves, 
through competition, gravitating individual by individual into certain 
occupations, are not castes at all. Castes do not compete for occupa- 
tions. Such errors as the latter are likely to occur because of over- 
emphasis upon an inverted view that occupation is a determinant of 
caste. It is an attempt to see castes outside of a caste system. Even in 
India vocational specialization alone will not bring a group within the 
caste system, "The Jews of Kolaba monopolize the local oil industry to 
such an extent that they are generally known as Telis, but no one 
will dream of affiliating them to the ordinary Teli caste.""^ 

It is not occupation as such which alone characterizes the caste. Such 
a simplification will lead us to include trade unions and guilds in the 
definition of caste. The vocation of a caste is one aspect of its way of 
life, possibly the most significant aspect ; but even the earliest authorities 
did not hold that variations of occupation always meant variations of 
caste. Personality, virtue, and function are associated, and a change 
of one of these may not involve a coincident change of the others. Yet 
each caste has a sacred duty not to deviate from its occupation, for 
the social order depends upon occupational permanence. Thus says 
Nehru : 

To assess the significance of caste properly it may be essential to ex- 
amine their functions. These may be (i) ordinary and (2) extraordinary. 
The ordinary functions or occupations of different castes are familiar to 
all. According to his peculiar caste, every man must drive his plough, or 
awl, or team, or goad, or reed, or whatever the instrument he handles in 
the discharge of his business. Thereby labour in the rural area is sub- 
divided, specialized, standardized, integrated, stabilized. . . . The ex- 
traordinary functions of certain castes regulate the mechanism of rural 
life on important social, religious, and financial occasions. . . . The village 
Nai, who is an itinerant barber, is also the local gossip . . . publicity man, 
and general busybody of the village.-" 

=°S. V. Ketkar, Vol. I, p. 102, note. 

^^Census of India, igii. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 367. 

^^Shri Shridhar Nehru, Caste and Credit, p. 19. (Italics added.) W. H. Wiser, 
who lived as a participant observer in an Indian village, says, "Every man has his 
God-appointed function and recognized obligations, and at the same time his rights 
and privileges. Each man is a member of some caste and each caste is an essential 
organ of the whole, discharging a function at once peculiar to itself and necessary 
to the full life of the caste system. Only through his participation in this group life 
can the individual attain his own ends, and conversely, only with the aid of every 
individual and every group can the caste system afford the appropriate setting for 
the fullest life of its individual members. All men exist in and for each other and 
are bound to each other by an intricate network of mutual obligations." Social 
Institutions of a Hindu Village of North India, an abstract of a Doctor's Thesis, 
Cornell University, p. 3. 

Occupation and Caste 67 

It is, then, not that every occupation has a caste, but that each caste 
has an occupation or group of related occupations. The caste structure 
is fundamentally a labor structure, a system of interrelated services 
originating in specialized groups and traditionalized in a religious 

From time immemorial upper-caste persons have been permitted, 
in periods of stress, to take the occupations of castes next below them, 
and this process is a consequence of inevitable social change; it has 
not contravened the principle of hereditary vocation and respect for 
one's traditional work. 

Substituting Occupations 

However, there is no provision in either the custom or the law of the 
caste system for voluntary change of occupation. It has been recog- 
nized that through circumstances which cannot be controlled a caste 
may not always be able to live by its hereditary work. In such cases 
the caste is allowed to find some other employment. But a caste in 
distress may not look for relief to the vocations of superior castes; 
it may resort only to those of castes inferior to itself. Indeed, the 
system, in recognizing any sort of social change, will generally admit 
only degradation. "A Brahman, unable to subsist by his peculiar occu- 
pations . . . may live according to the law applicable to Kshatriyas; 
for the latter is next to him in rank. ... A Vaisya who is unable to 
subsist by his own duties may even maintain himself by a Sudra's 
mode of life. . . . But a Sudra, being unable to find service with the 
twice-born and threatened with the loss of his sons and wife through 
hunger, may maintain himself by handicrafts.""^ 

Most specifically, no man has the right to take the work of a Brah- 
man — that is to say, become a priest. And this must necessarily be so 
in the caste system, for if, upon any excuse whatever, individuals or 
castes are permitted to covet superior occupations, competition will 
speedily reduce the social order. The rationale of this is that the posi- 
tion of all men is known, karmic, and guarded by the gods. To suffer 
through the operation of natural economic forces or ill conduct must 
be interpreted as being consistent with the divine will.'* 

^Manu,X, 81,98-99. 

"'See Martin Luther Dolbeer, The Movement for the Emancipation of Untouch- 
able Classes in South India, Master's Thesis, University of Chicago, 1929, p. 60. 
Abbe Dubois, op. cit., p. 295; S. V. Ketkar, op. cit.. Vol. I, pp. 136-37. 

68 Caste, Class, and Race 

Nature of Occupational Change 

In Brahmanic India the individual normally takes the occupa- 
tion of his father; there are no provisions for personal choice in this 
matter. The occupation of the caste is an "obligatory monopoly, the 
continuance of which is for the child not only a right but also an 
hereditary duty.""^ Hence, at the very outset, the individual finds the 
system set against occupational predilections. He learns to have great 
respect and reverence for the vocation of his caste. Thus, in India one 
speaks of the "traditional occupation" of his caste, a loyalty which 
may constrain him even when that caste has partly or wholly changed 
its occupation. 

A man's caste function is important to him. With consummate con- 
tentment he will be a criminal or a beggar as well as a productive 
worker according to the interest of his caste. Says the Gita: "One 
should not abandon a natural duty though it be tainted with evil."''' 
Able-bodied men beg or steal religiously as a vocation because these 
are legitimate traditional functions of their caste. Even though they, 
as individuals, should wish to change, the system offers practically 
no escape. 

Occupational mobility, then, is collective rather than individual. 
Part of a caste may be detached from the parent body, but within this 
segment the rigidity of the rule against individual occupational choice 
is maintained. ^'^ However, we must not suppose that the caste either 
changes its occupation frequently or thinks lightly about the matter. 
Dubois gives his personal experience on the desperate reluctance of 
workers to leave their vocation: 

I travelled through some of the manufacturing districts, and nothing 
could equal the state of desolation prevailing in them. . . . All the work- 
rooms were closed, and hundreds of thousands of the inhabitants, com- 

^•'C. Bougie, op. cit., p. 3. See also p. 22. In urban centers today, where caste is 
under the impact of Western civilization, children are being given much greater 
latitude in selecting occupations. For a broad account of this, see Atul Chatterjee, 
"Social Change in India," Great Britain and the East, Vol. LV, November 1940, 
p. 368. 

'^Sacred Books of the East, ed. by F. Max Muller, Vol. VIII; the Gita, 18. 51. 

^'C. Bougie, op. cit., p. 20. "In places where the demand for a particular service 
is greater than the numbers of the caste ordinarily associated with it are able to 
meet, or the profits are unusually high, it often happens that persons belonging 
to some other community adopt the occupation. At first the regular members of the 
caste refuse to have anything to do with them, but in time their attitude undergoes 
a change. Community of occupation involves community of interest. The new- 
comers lose touch with their former associates and withdra\v, or are ejected, from 
their old marriage circle; and they gradually come to be regarded by the general 

Occupation and Caste 69 

posing the weaver caste, were dying of hunger; for through the prejudice 
of the country they could not adopt another profession without dishonour- 
ing themselves.-^ 

There is always a danger of the caste's losing status permanently 
by changing its occupation, for, although it may fairly easily adopt an 
inferior occupation, there may be insurmountable difficulties in the 
way of returning to the original status. 

The Bhuinhars are now chiefly tillers of the soil; but apparently the 
original cause of their being lowered in the scale of caste [from Brahman- 
hood] was the adoption of the military profession, and their subsequent 
practice of agriculture has served only to degrade them a little further.-^ 

Notwithstanding the sacred law, it is seldom, if ever, a simple matter 
to assume a new occupation. Caste-men know the value of their vested 
interests, and not infrequently they offer newcomers considerable oppo- 
sition. Therefore, it may be not only the moral inhibitions of one's 
caste which tend to limit occupational mobility but also the resistance 
of other castes to occupational encroachments.^" 

Witn respect to the formation of new castes, the entering of new 
groups into the caste system, vocation has a dominant role. Not all 
castes attain position on the sole basis of functional specialization, but 
in time all come to be looked upon as having some traditional duty. 
Ordinarily tribes enter the caste system in fragments. The tribe disinte- 
grates, occupation by occupation, and gradually enters the system at 
status levels functionally determined. Thus, it is not the whole tribe 
which ordinarily becomes a caste; the breakdown of a tribe may con- 
tribute caste members to many different rungs of the caste hierarchy. ^^ 
In conclusion, then, we may add that although vocational specializa- 

public as a section of the caste whose occupation they have appropriated, and to 
be called by the same name. Later on, members of that caste come to look upon 
them as belonging to their community, though of a separate sub-caste, and they 
themselves take the same view." Census of India, igii. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 375. 

^'"Op. cit., pp. 94-95; see also C. Bougie, op. cit., p. 21. 

"°J. H. Bhattachary'a^ Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 131. 

^'See G. S. Ghur^e, op. cit., pp. 15—16. 

^See "Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. Says John C. Nesfield : 
"Castes act as a solvent of tribes. The formation of a caste implies that clans or 
fragments of clans, possessing some craft or occupation in common, but belonging 
to different tribes, have been seceding from their respective tribes and forming 
themselves into a new group united by the common craft or industry'. The new 
group thus formed is a caste. . . . The tribe . . . begins to crumble away . . . 
and groups of men associated in hereditary professions, trades, or crafts, succeed 
to its place. . . . When two or more fragments, drawn from different tribes, have 
thus cemented by marriage into a single group, and when marriage within the 
group has been made a condition of membership, the caste has been completely 
formed." Op. cit., p. 105. 

70 Caste, Class, and Race 

tion alone may not assure us of the presence of caste, hereditary speciali- 
zation is none the less essential to the caste system.''^ 

^It has been suggested to the writer that "it is significant that the caste system 
has been particularly subjected to strain in industrial centers where modern fac- 
tory organization cannot be efficiently geared into the caste system, therefore an 
examination of the impact of industrialization on the caste system would clarify 
considerably the place of occupation in that system." There is very much truth in 
this. But Western civilization attacks and substitutes more than the occupational 
basis of caste. Not only the caste system but all other systems of social organization 
in the world bow to it. In so far as the caste system is concerned, it is probably the 
powerful strain toward individualism which saps its vitality. 

6. Caste Organization 

No Central Government 



JL Hindus that Brahmanic India may be called a society without an 
organized state. Hindu society consists of a large aggregation of prac- 
tically autonomous small communities held together by mutual de- 
pendence. There have been kings among the Hindus from time 
immemorial, but, so far as we know, these have always governed in the 
interest of a ruling caste or estate. In days of native rule, strong rajas 
here and there have exercised considerable authority in the affairs of 
castes;^ their administration, however, has been despotic and capricious. 
Law has never attained the objectivity of the secular. According to the 
Abbe Dubois: 

There has been no legal code; neither has there been any record of 
legal usage. There are, it is true, a few works containing general legal 
principles, and a few wise legal maxims which have helped to guide the 
judges in their decisions; yet nowhere have there been properly organized 
courts of justice." 

The Idea of a State and Nationality 

An organismic theory of society has persisted with great strength 
among the Hindus. It has filled the need for a rationale of the social 
order. The individuating influence of caste has probably kept every 
appearance of collective sympathy from developing into an organized 
state, and of course Brahmanic India never dreamed of nationalism. 

^Census of India, igii. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 393. For a general discussion of the 
activities of early kings, see Edward W. Hopkins, "The Social and Military Position 
of the Ruling Caste in Ancient India," Journal of American Oriental Society, Vol. 
XIII, 1888. 

"Op. cit., p. 654. For instances of direction and advice to the king in his ad- 
ministration of justice, see Manu, VIII, i, 41, 45, 310. 

72 Caste, Class, and Race 

The system limits the opportunity both for concerted action and of 
achieving a common purpose. Hindu society, says Senart, "has given 
rise to no state which is comparable even with the narrow government 
of the cities of antiquity, still less with our modem state."^ And Risley 
observes further: "There is consequently no national type and no 
nation or even nationality in the ordinary sense of the words."* 

The Hindus, then, never attained a conception of nationality. Pos- 
sible national patriotism has been absorbed in caste patriotism. Nation- 
alism calls for some degree of popular identification of aspirations, 
memories, and sympathies, but the caste system is antipathetic to such 
a tendency. Rene Maunier has put considerable emphasis on the point 
that "the idea of nationality takes birth everywhere by the putting of 
peoples in contact with strangers.'"^ A people does not gain a national 
conception of itself in isolation ; the feeling for group unity and the idea 
of a common fortune result from its reaction to competitive incursions 
of strangers who conceive of themselves as having a common destiny.® 
India has had its share of invasions, but up to recent times it was still 
possible to say that "the vast majority of the people of India are as yet 
untouched by the idea of nationality."^ However, as the country begins 
to get its bearings in the arena of capitalistic competition, nationalistic 
sentiment crops up sporadically. 

Many Hindus have mistaken the general absence of concern of one 
caste about the affairs of another for "the democratic spirit." In a 
system where sympathy for man as man is at its nadir, groups, at a 
prescribed distance, may live very much as they please; but this situa- 
tion is hardly democratic. To think of others as being unworthy of 
notice is not necessarily tolerance. Intercaste indifference and apathy 
do not mean democracy. "True citizenship [is] impossible under a 
caste system which all but deified the priestly class, condemned great 
multitudes [the Sudras] to a life of contempt, and banished the un- 
touchables beyond the social pale."^ The concept of a civic ideal, then, 
becomes practically impossible; for the individual, the welfare of the 
nation must always be subordinated to the welfare of the caste. 

No possible qualification of an "other-caste" individual could be 

'Op. cit.,-pp. 8-9. See also p. 198. 

^Op. cit., p. 25. To the same eflfect, see pp. 272, 289. See also G. S. Ghurye, 
op. cit., pp. 182-88, for a discussion of caste as a barrier to the development of an 
Indian nation. 

^Sociologie coloniale, p. 76. 

^Ibid., pp. 75-76. 

■^H. H. Risley, op. cit., p. 288. 

*H. N. Brailsford, "Indian Question," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 

Caste Organization 73 

sufficient to attract a voter against the wishes of his caste. In fact, under 
the caste system, voting by caste may be the only possibility, and what 
this would mean politically is difficult to say. The caste system is prob- 
ably the "completest denial of democracy."^ 

Spatial Organization 

The village is the geographical unit of caste life. Caste occupational 
specialization tends to be limited by the size of the village. In India 
today there are well over half a million villages, and these are in- 
formally divided into natural districts of one or more villages, each 
having its hierarchy of castes. 

Caste and village organization are complementary to one another, two 
closely adjusted parts of one total situation. . . . Economically the village 
is a unit, self-sufficient and largely self-governing, completely equipped 
with farmers, merchants, artisans, and menials. . . . The duties and 
remunerations of each group are fixed by custom, and the caste rules 
strictly prohibit any man from entering into competition with a fellow- 
caste member.^" 

Money is seldom used in the village because payments are ordinarily 
made in kind.^^ These diminutive economic systems tend not only to 
secure the interdependence of castes but also to bar strangers from 
community participation. The village provides its own communal serv- 
ices — its roads, temple, school, water, courts, and so on. Village life 
helps to stabilize the caste system. The primary group relationship 
which it facilitates permits the easy identification of caste members, 
and since generation after getieration lives in the same limited areas, 
family histories become common knowledge. Consequently there is 
seldom any mistake about a man's caste affiliation. 

Brahmans, a Factor 

The primary organizing social force in Hindu society is a prestige- 
social-distance complex. What the public thinks of a man or the group 
to which he belongs appears to be a more powerful source of social 
control in India than in most other parts of the world. "We recognize it 
in the plight of the outcaste and in the ceaseless struggle for mainte- 

"See The Cambridge History of India, Vol. VI, pp. 594-95, and H. H. Risky, 
op. cit., p. 275. 

^"Martin Luther Dolbeer, op. cit., pp. 12-13. 

"R. Mukerjee, op. cit., pp. 3-4, 12. See also "Indian Question," Encyclopedia of 
the Social Sciences. 

74 Caste, Class, and Race 

nance or advancement of caste position. The norm of public opinion 
is the attitude of the Brahman. 

Groups organized principally about some occupation hold each other 
in equilibrium by scrutinizing any claim to rights and privileges, by 
exacting or withholding customary dues and services, and by con- 
trolling rigidly the intracaste practices and behavior of each caste 
member. The greater the proximity of castes, both in space and status, 
the greater the intercaste pressures toward conformity to expected pat- 
terns of behavior. Thus we may think of the system as self -regulating — 
that is to say, it is not policed. 

The dharma, or way of life, of a caste is traditional; it is grounded 
in the static doctrine of karma and transmigration, and attempts by 
lower castes to appropriate it by imitation provoke considerable envy 
and ill will. The effectiveness of these controls developed among the 
castes has led some writers to conclude that the Brahman plays but an 
insignificant part in the determination of intercaste relationships. 

The role of the Brahman, however, is subtle ; we must not expect to 
see him as the policeman of the system. Brahmans are the traditional 
keepers of knowledge and wisdom; the gurus have earned the un- 
questioned respect of all other castes, and their very attitude toward 
caste tends to determine caste rank. The Brahman is not capricious in 
judgment, for he is himself the personification of tradition. Intercaste 
behavior tends to be in terms of what each caste believes Brahmans 
will sanction, while Brahmans are controlled reflectively by the exalted 
opinion which the community holds of them. 

The services of the Brahman are indispensable to the system; there 
is no substitute for him. 

By the people generally, he is regarded as a pure, stainless, twice-boni 
being, divine as well as human, worthy of unbounded admiration and 
worship. He is the priest of the Hindu religion, directing the ceremonies 
performed at the temples, sacred wells, sacred tanks, sacred rivers, and at 
all other hallowed places throughout the land. He is present to sanction 
and give effect to the great social festivals of his countrymen, held at 
marriages, at births of sons, and at deaths. He casts the horoscope, tells the 
lucky days, gives spiritual counsel, whispers mantras or mysterious words, 
executes magical incantations and charms; and is at once household god, 
family priest, and general preceptor and guide, in behalf of the many 
millions of Hindus residing in the vast country lying between the Hi- 
malayas and Cape Comorin.^- 

No other caste covers the territory so completely as the Brahman. 
These priests are indeed the hubs of the hundreds of thousands of small 

^"M. A. Sherring, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 3. 

Caste Organization 75 

communities which compose the system. "India, as a whole, is the 
home of the Brahmans; but only a portion of it is the home of Rajpoots 
[the military caste]. A district in India without Brahmans would be 
like Hamlet with its leading character withdrawn ; yet there are many 
districts in which no Rajpoot has ever dwelt."^^ The caste system, then, 
is essentially a religious rather than a political social order. Quite early 
in the history of the Hindus the Brahmans defeated the Kshatriyas in 
a struggle for social precedence, and, though they have never taken to 
the sword, their spiritual influence over the people is probably stronger 
than any military control ever exercised by a secular ruler. 

"The supremacy of the Brahmans has now become one of the 
cardinal doctrines of Hinduism; so much so, that orthodox Sudras of 
the old school will not break their fast until they have sipped water" 
which has been sanctified by a Brahman's dipping his toe into it.^* 
According to Bougie, the sole organizing force which has kept the caste 
system from crumbling is an unquestioned acceptance of a religious 
conception of life and a belief in the omnipotence of the sacerdotal 
body.^^ Nripendra K. Dutt asserts that "the prestige of the Brahman 
is the corner-stone of the whole organization."^^ 

Ordinarily Brahmans are competent to administer any phase of 
Hindu law; indeed, all law in Brahmanic India is "canon law." Hence 
any breach of custom or written rule is considered a violation of a 
divine mandate, and, consequently, any punishment meted out by 
Brahmans is accepted as a sacred judgment.^' Even when Brahmans 
leave the actual administration of the law to the king they never con- 
cede the right to advise him in reaching decisions.^® 

Formerly, Hindu kings, under instruction from their pandit ministers, 
would enforce caste observances. But under the present non-Hindu state, 
no such action could be expected. In many instances, pandits have to be 
consulted both as to whether a member has really violated Shastraic in- 
junctions and as to the penalty which should be inflicted in that special 

Usually, however, each caste is competent to deal with infractions 
of its own rules; and the judgments of its council or panchayat are 
usually final. 

"Ibid., Vol. II, p. Ixviii. 

^^"Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 

"Op. cit., pp. 172, 179, 182. 

^"Origin and Growth of Caste in India, Vol. I, p. 3. 

"C. Bougie, op. cit., pp. 179, 189. 

^See, for example, Manu, VIII, i. 

"'John P. Jones, op. cit., p. 123. 

76 Caste, Class, and Race 

The Panchayat 

Probably no single institution of the caste system so clearly illustrates 
the fact that a caste is a corporate unity as the panchayat. Not all 
castes have a panchayat (literally, a tribunal of five), but they all 
have some means of constituting a body capable of exercising its 
functions. It is upon the panchayat that the business of maintaining 
order within the caste and the settling of intercaste questions devolve. 
Indeed, it has been said that "the caste is its own ruler.""" Of course we 
should expect methods of procedure to vary from caste to caste, but an 
examination of some of the features of this council may give us a fair 
understanding of its character. 

But before describing the panchayat it may be well to differentiate 
some of the more important judicial bodies of the system. The 
panchayat proper is a permanent or temporarily constituted governing 
body of a caste. It is seldom, if ever, composed of fewer than five 
members, although a larger number is not uncommon. ^^ The parishad, 
or village panchayat, is a village council composed of representatives 
from the leading castes in the village. It is concerned mainly with inter- 
caste questions, and "questions concerning which the law is silent or 
doubtful.""" George W. Briggs has observed some of these in the 
Punjab and the United Provinces.^^ It seems, however, that the village 
panchayat is very uncommon. "Whatever may have been the case 
in the past, the village panchayat is rarely found at the present day."^^ 
More recently public officials have been working to revive the village 
panchayat as an institution of village government. 

Sometimes a powerful headman or guru may act as sole arbiter on 
questions arising in the caste, or a general assembly of all the adult 
male members of the caste may sit in judgment upon the affairs of 
the caste. Of more recent development is the sabha, or general meeting 
of regional representatives from the subcastes of a caste. It settles 
matters of interest to the whole caste. "^ In this discussion we shall be 
concerned mainly with the panchayat. 

"""Every caste has its own laws and regulations, or rather, we may say, its own 
customs, in accordance with which the severest justice is meted out." Abbe Dubois, 
op. cit., p. 32. 

^Ibid., p. 655. 

^Census of India, igii. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 395, where Manu is cited as authority 
for assigning the function of this tribunal. 

^The Chamars, p. 49. 

'"^'Census of India, igi i. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 395. 

"George W. Briggs, loc. cit. 

Caste Organization 77 

The juridical functions of most castes are in the hands of the head- 
man, the panchayat, and the caste assembly. The headman calls the 
panchayat, presides at its deliberations, and pronounces the decision 
of the group. ^° In most castes supreme authority is in the hands of the 
panchayat, a body numbering five or more men, and sometimes in- 
cluding the older women of the caste. '^ In others, however, final 
authority is reserved to the caste assembly.^^ "Panchayats, as a rule, 
do not allow persons of other castes to take part in their deliberations, 
but in case of difficulty they sometimes refer the matter to some out- 
sider of local dignity or experience, whether he be a Brahman or be- 
long to some other caste of good status."'" 

The caste panchayat has jurisdiction over all matters concerning 
its welfare ; it is not at all concerned with questions of a civic nature. 
It organizes boycotts, regulates the occupational activities of its caste 
members, upholds rules concerning commensality, settles questions of 
marriage, and assumes responsibility for general intercaste relation- 
ships.^° Of particular interest to the panchayat are those relationships 

^In summarizing the Report from the Central Provinces and Berar, the Census 
of India, 191 1, describes the procedure of the council: "The constitution and pro- 
cedure of the panchayat are tlie same in most of the castes. As a rule, the pan- 
chayats are not permanent bodies, but arc called together when required. It is the 
business of the man who, for any reason, requires the decision of the panchayat, after 
consulting the headman of the caste, to collect the members of the caste at the ap- 
pointed place, his own house, a temple, a pipal tree, a specially built meeting place 
or the headman's house. The headman is in most cases a hereditary office-bearer, but 
has usually no independent powers, unless he is far superior in wealth and power to 
his caste fellows. In the latter case he may have the absolute position of dictator. 
. . . On the appointed day the members meet at a fixed place, and the headman 
or one of the elders explains the nature of the offense committed, and calls upon 
the offender to admit it or make his defense." Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 389. 


'^Emile Senart, op. cit., p. 64. 

'"Ibid. Senart elaborates upon this point: "Sometimes . . . the Brahman appears 
to act alone; in fact, a more or less tacit delegation takes place." Moreover, "the 
mere circumstance of their assistance is enough to make the caste vastly superior 
to those who do not enjoy the Brahman's administration." Ibid., pp. 73, 85. See 
also "Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 

^The Census lists the following chief offenses of which a panchayat takes cogni- 
zance: "(i) Eating, drinking, or smoking with a person of another sub-caste or 
caste. (2) Killing sacred animals, such as the cow, squirrel, cat, etc. (3) Homicide 
or murder.' (4) Getting maggots in a wound. (5) Having the ear or nose torn. (6) 
Abusing relatives held in reverence, or beating parents. (7) Following prohibited 
occupations; e.g., a Mang sweeping a road, a Darji stitching leather, a Kirar selling 
shoes, a Kurmi serving as a syce, an Ahir cleaning pots, a Maratha washing clothes, 
and so on. (8) Breach of caste etiquette; e.g., leaving a dinner before others have 
finished. (9) Naming or touching relatives who should not be so named or touched; 
e.g., a wife should not name her husband, an elder brother may not touch his 
younger brother's wife." Census of India, igii. Vol. I, Pt. i, pp. 392-93. 

Other matters which a panchayat may deal with are : ( i ) finding a suitable mate 
for a marriageable boy or girl; (2) widow remarriage; (3) partition of property, 
the decision of minor quarrels, and, occasionally, the adjudication of thefts. Ibid., 

78 Caste, Class, and Race 

of the individual with the community which tend to affect the status 
of the caste. 

The highest castes do not ordinarily have panchayats. "When a case 
comes up for decision, a special meeting has to be convened for the 
purpose. "^^ Not infrequently the most influential men of the caste 
or the gurus of the community decide caste affairs and pronounce judg- 
ments which are followed by the entire caste or subcaste.^" 

The caste has power to punish its members. This apparently simple 
fact tells a big story about the sociology of caste. Caste punishment is 
not merely ridicule or exclusion; it involves rather the infliction of 
specific sentences upon an individual or group of individuals. The 
power of a caste to punish is indispensable. It is the basis upon which 
the corporate responsibility of the group rests. It indicates, moreover, 
the extent of dependence of the individual upon his caste for existence. 
The caste had power (before British rule) to mete out penalties even of 
death to its members; it may impose fines, castigate, banish, subject to 
ignominy, and excommunicate.^^ There is no appeal from the decision 
of the caste. Today, in areas where the British courts are established, the 
panchayat has been forced to contract its criminal jurisdiction; but 
offenses specifically against the interests of the caste are still within 
the purview of caste judgment. 

Control over the Individual 

The security which the caste gives its adult members is of the same 
kind of fearful indispensability as that which the family provides for 
its young children. The competence of the caste does not end with the 
exercise of organizational and juridical functions; it is also intimately 
concerned with the domestic life of the individual. After long personal 

p. 392. On this subject see also Risley, op. cit., p. 76, and George W. Briggs, op. cit., 
pp. 49-50. 

'^Census of India, igii. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 388; and G. S. Ghurye, op. cit., p. 3. 

^Abbe Dubois, op. cit., p. 284. 

'"The Abbe Dubois puts the situation graphically: "Although the penalty of 
death may be inflicted by some castes under certain circumstances, this form of 
punishment is seldom resorted to nowadays. Whenever it is thought to be indispen- 
sable, it is the father or brother who is expected to execute it, in secrecy. Generally 
speaking, however, recourse is had by preference to the imposition of a fine and 
to various ignominious corporal punishments. As regards these latter, we may note 
as examples the punishment inflicted on women who have forfeited their honor, 
such as shaving their heads, compelling them to ride through public streets mounted 
on asses and with their faces turned towards the tail ; forcing them to stand a long 
time with a basket of mud on their heads before the assembled caste people throw- 
ing into their faces the ordure of cattle, breaking the cotton thread of those pos- 
sessing the right to wear it, and excommunicating the guilty from their caste." 
Op. cit., p. 37. See also George W. Briggs, op. cit., pp. 50-51. 

Caste Organization 79 

contact with the system John P. Jones comes to the conclusion that 
the caste "so completely hems in the life of a man, imperatively pre- 
scribes for him the routine of life, even down to the most insignificant 
details, and thus shuts him up in his own clan and with equal com- 
pleteness cuts him off from the members of other castes, that it can 
reduce any recalcitrant member to certain and speedy obedience, 
simply because there is no one to whom he can flee for sympathy and 

A satisfactory way of life for the individual is practically impossible 
outside of his caste. He "depends probably more than any other peasant 
in the world on the sympathy and co-operation of his brethren. . . . 
All the affairs of his life are regulated by the opinion of the [caste] in 
which he is born, and severed from that group he finds himself a 
hopeless outcaste."^° There are, then, no actions of the individual which 
he may reserve to his own discretion, even on the ground that they are 

Yet we should not think of a man's caste as constituting a tyrannical 
clique. In the caste system, caste members are passionately devoted 
and attached to their caste. Probably one factor naturally limiting 
spatial mobility among Hindus is the extreme nostalgia which usually 
develops among migrants. A man's allegiance to his caste is natural. 
He has, so to speak, inherited it. Therefore, we should not conceive 
of the caste as a sadistic institution. It has the definite function of 
protecting the welfare of all its members, and it cannot permit the 
possible devious acts of any one of them to subordinate this. 

The shame which would reflect on the whole caste if the faults of its 
individual members went unpunished guarantees that the caste will exe- 
cute justice, defend its own honour, and keep all its members within 
bounds of duty.^° 

The individual looks to the opinion of his caste as a comforting 
arbiter of right and wrong; he is subordinated to the group, a fact 
which works neither spiritual nor physical hardships. His rights and 
immunities against the world are secured for him by his caste, while 
outside of his caste he is destitute of social influence and disconsolate. 

*'Op. cit., pp. 1 15-16. 

"■"'William Crookc, op. cit., p. 177. See also Godfrey E. Phillips, The Outcastes' 
Hope, p. 20. 

*'Abbe Dubois, op. cit., p. 32. 

8o Caste, Class, and Race 


Caste dharma is the customary norm of behavior accepted and de- 
veloped by a caste as its sacred way of life ; it is caste usage made sacro- 
sanct.^^ The dharma of a caste is a complex cultural whole, an 
atomized variant of the total culture. Ordinarily the dharma of a 
caste does not diifer in every aspect from that of other castes, yet 
the slightest variation in some peculiar aspect may be sufficient to 
distinguish the whole. 

It is the sacred duty of every member of a caste not only to follow 
religiously the dharma of his caste, but also to protect it against in- 
fringement or appropriation by other castes. Thus, respect for one's 
caste dharma, be that what it may, constitutes a greater source of 
divine favor than a desire to covet any other. "This strict and uni- 
versal observance of caste and caste usage forms practically the whole 
sacred law."^^ Furthermore, the necessity of protecting caste dharma 
may be thought of as a factor contributing to caste stability and inter- 
caste invidiousness. 

The Boycott 

Another means of social control of which the Hindus are past 
masters is the boycott. Short of open conflict, it is the most powerful 
weapon which they possess. The use of the boycott is ingrained deeply 
in the immemorial practices of the people. Outcasting is itself a form 
of boycotting, and the effectiveness with which the latter may be 
employed against individuals or groups is universally attested to by 
observers in India. 

A whole vUlage may close up tight against anyone attempting to 
break with the social order. Again we refer to the Abbe Dubois for 

^Tor a good discussion of the various uses of the term "dharma" in Hindu litera- 
ture, see Gualtherus Mees, Dharma and Society, pp. sff. In his elaboration of the 
subject, however. Dr. Mees seems to have developed a sort of metaphysical eulogy 
of the concept. After lamenting the probable loss of dharma in human affairs the 
author inquires: "How does a man become aware of Dharma? . . . He becomes 
aware of an urge within himself, and, because it demands satisfaction, he follows, 
he obeys. The religious man will call it listening to the voice of God and obeying 
it. The ethical man will call it doing his duty and obeying his conscience. The prac- 
tical sociologist will call it following his calling." P. 24. Again: "The ethical, the 
religious, the mystical, and the ideal aspects of Dharma are really aspects of what 
we might call the 'first aspects of Dharma.' Dharma, economic, political, racial, 
professional, etc., appertains to the 'second aspect'. . . . The 'first aspect of Dharma' 
accounted for the birth of the theory and ideal of Varna. The 'second aspect of 
Dharma' created caste in India." P. 90. 

^Abbe Dubois, op. cit., p. 41. See also Vincent A. Smith, op. cit., pp. 34, 37. 

Caste Organization 

a classic statement: "Sometimes one may see, as a result of a caste 
order, the tradesmen and merchants of a whole district closing their 
shops, the laborers abandoning their fields, or the artisans leaving their 
workshops, all because of some insult or of some petty extortion suffered 
by some member of their caste ; and the aggrieved people will remain 
obstinately in this state of opposition until the injury has been atoned 
for and those responsible for it punished."''^ When applied to a caste- 
man, it is punishment feared even as a death sentence. 

°Op. cit., p. 33. See also M. L, Dolbeer, op. cit., pp. 2i6ff. 

7. The Origin of Caste 

The Question 


JL never hope to bring its content up to the expectations which are 
most likely aroused. When we put the question, "How did caste orig- 
inate in India?" we are really asking, "How did Hindu society orig- 
inate?" In the latter form, the magnitude of our assignment becomes 
clearly apparent. Had it not been that we are today, as ever, convinced 
by stories of origins, it would indeed be a thankless task to undertake a 
discussion of the origin of caste. Yet our discussion may not be entirely 
without fruit, for the various points which we shall consider will 
probably give us a clearer insight into the nature of Hindu society. 
The racial theory of the origin of caste has tended to give new 
meaning to some Hindus' conception of themselves. Castes are now 
claiming to be "true Aryans" with a recently discovered sense of 
tentative Nordic arrogance.^ Then, too, there are probably hundreds 
of popular and scientific writers who predicate axiomatically a racial 
origin of caste. This, of course, should be a rather harmless matter in- 
volving only an academic question of historical accuracy, did not the 
authors use the point as a postulate either in explaining the nature of 
the caste system in India or in justification of some form of modern 
race relationships. Consider, for example, Professor Pitirim Sorokin's 
conviction : 

The factors of race, selection, and heredity were known long ago. . . . 
In the Sacred Books of India, we find the theory that the different castes 

^See S. V. Ketkar, History of Caste in India, Vol. I, pp. 77-82. "This noble pride 
has prevented the members of different communities from holding free intercourse 
and from intermarrying with foreigners and invading nations, and has thus kept 
the Aryan blood pure and unadulterated. If they had not possessed that tremendous 
national pride and had mixed freely with all people by whom they were overrun, 
we should not find in India today the full-blooded descendants of the pure Aryan 
family." Swami Abhendananda, India and Her People, p. 90. (Italics added.) 

The Origin of Caste 83 

were created out of different parts of the body of Brahma, and that they 
are innately different; consequently, any mixture of blood, or cross- 
marriage, or even any contact of the members of different races is the 
greatest crime, and the social status of every individual is entirely deter- 
mined by the "blood" of his parents. . . . Eugenics was well known and 
widely practiced in ancient societies. "Twice-born men (of the higher 
castes) who, in their folly wed wives of low caste, soon degrade their 
families and their children to the state of Sudras."- 

The concluding quotation is from the Laws of Manu. It is clear 
that Professor Sorokin believes that ideas of racial purity, similar to 
those now current, and political biologists, usually called eugenists, 
were common among the Hindus some three thousand years ago. 
Though charged with error, such easy transitions from an ancient 
myth to conclusions about modem theories of racial purity are not 
uncommon. The author uses this as a basis for explaining the natural- 
ness of race relations today. Harry Elmer Barnes and Howard Becker, 
without specific implications for modern situations, may yet be mis- 
leading in conclusions such as the following. They write : 

It is significant that the four vamas providing the main scaffolding of 
Indian caste structure mean the four "colors." The castes shade from light 
to dark, with the priestly Brahmans, purest blooded and most jealously 
endogamous descendants of the "Aryan" invaders of about 3000 b.g. and 
therefore, at the highest and lightest part of the framework.^ 

It would be indeed remarkable if the thousands of castes in India 
really shaded off into a distinguishable gradation of tints from dark 
to light, and if each tint faithfully reproduced itself, protecting its 
"purity" all the while by endogamy from incursions of darkness. We 
shall refer again to this tendency to transfer one's own cultural atti- 
tudes to other social situations. 

Seeking social origins is a particularly unproductive type of endeavor. 
The following ancient Hindu text seems to suit the occasion: "The 
origin of seers, rivers, great families, women, and sin is not to be 
found out."'* With respect to the origin of castes, the difficulty probably 

"Contemporary Sociological Theories, pp. 219-20; also p. 669. 

^Social Thought from Lore to Science, Vol. I, pp. 71—72. Some popular writers 
as B. L. Putnam Weale put it vulgarly: "It is a fact certainly well worth always 
remembering that castes in Sanskrit are called colours, thus proving that race- 
prejudice is absolutely ingrained in human beings, no matter in what part of the 
world they may live." (Italics Weale's.) The Conflict of Colour, p. 229. 

For a Nazi-like vulgarization of this belief in ancient Ar>'an race prejudice, see 
the anti-color book by Stuart Orner Landry, The Cult of Equality, pp. 238-39. 

^Quoted by Edward W. Hopkins, op. cit, p. 135. And the wise authors of Ecclesi- 
astes (3:11) saw that "no man can find out the work that God maketh from the 
beginning to the end " 

84 Caste, Class, and Race 

lies in the fact that the caste system did not originate. A social order 
does not originate; it evolves. Hence, that which we might discover 
as the origin is most likely not the social organization which we are 
seeking to describe.'^ At any rate, with this in mind we shall go as 
far back as history permits us. 

If we were to ask ourselves what in Hindu society differentiates it 
from other advanced societies, we cannot help concluding that it is 
principally the dominance of priests. If, then, we are able to follow 
the circumstances which led to the ascendancy of priests, we might be 
able to achieve some insight into the development of the type of society 
which they influenced and helped to fashion. The presence of the 
Dravidians, a people distinguishable physically and culturally from 
the Aryans, must certainly have been a factor determining the kind 
of society which evolved in India. We should assume that they con- 
tributed to the system at every stage of its development. 

The pure-blood theorists have discovered the origin of caste in 
Aryan racial antipathy, which is supposed to be an inherent attribute 
of Aryans. The caste system, as we know it today, however, is admit- 
tedly not based upon Aryo-Dravidian racial antagonism. It is a social 
system of an entirely different nature. Hence, it is the origin of the 
latter system and not of the postulated race-caste system, which we are 
interested in determining. Those who adduce the racial theory of 
caste always assume that there were at first two castes, the Aryans and 
the Dravidians, conquerors and conquered, white and black.® Their 
discussion of the relationship between these two peoples is always 
deductive and inferential, based upon the type of race relations with 
which we are now familiar among whites and peoples of color.^ 
However, these writers have never succeeded in making a convincing 

°"It is often said that the origin of a thing can never explain it; and this is true 
enough. Its origin is but one fragment of its history, even as its present activity is 
another fragment." G. D. Cole, What Marx Really Meant, p. 10. 

"For instance, in comparing the culture of the Aryans and their conquered people, 
Arnold J. Toynbee says with assurance : "The relative material power of the two 
castes was in inverse ratio to their relative civilization. The Aryan conquerors of 
the Indus Basin . . . were barbarians." A Study of History, Vol. IV, pp. 229-30; 
and Edward Westermarck declares: "India was inherited by a dark people before 
the fairer Aryans took possession of it . . . the domineering spirit of the con- 
querors, their bitter contempt for foreign tribes, and their strong antipathies of race 
. . . found vent in the sharp distinction which they drew between themselves and 
the conquered population, the Sudras." The History of Human Marriage, Vol. II, 
p. 66. 

''Almost without exception these authorities refer to the social situation which 
has developed between whites and Negroes in South Africa and in the Southern 
states of the United States in support of their theories. Always the African and 
American citations are more cogent than the point which they propose to establish 
about caste in India. 

The Origin of Caste 85 

transition from such a pattern of race relationship to the caste system 
which we know in India. They either skip the difficulty or gloss it 
over with new theories about occupations and religion. Observe, for 
instance, the following conclusion of Dr. Ghurye : 

The three first castes were first enjoined not to marry a Sudra female 
before any other restriction of an endogamous nature was tried to be 
promulgated. . . . The various factors that characterized caste-society 
were the result, in the first instance, of the attempts on the part of the 
upholders of the Brahmanic civilization to exclude the aborigines and the 
Sudras from religious and social communion with themselves.^ 

The three first castes were, so far as certain statements in the 
literature are concerned, Aryans. It would be consistent with modern 
thinking to pit them against the Sudras of questionable race and the 
Dravidians. But in order to do this Dr. Ghurye had to go to the extent 
of implying that the Brahmans, the Kshatriyas, and the Vaisyas were 
developed castes intermarrymg among themselves but endogamous 
only with respect to others ! This, of course, is not only opposed to the 
logic of the caste system but is also without a scintilla of historical 
support. Clearly it is absurd to say that the three first castes were 
endogamous among themselves." 

The second proposition of the Brahmans defending their civilization 
is a type of gloss which we usually find in the form of a corollary to these 
theories. In the following sections we shall consider in more detail 
various attempts to account for the system. 

Traditional Theories 

There are many stories and variations of stories of creation in the 
literature of the Hindus, but the one which occurs most frequently 
and which is most generally accepted is the famous Purusha myth 
of the Rig- Veda. In Book X, hymn 90, verses 11-12, an account is 
given of the creation of the four castes from the body of the great 
god Purusha; it is the earliest of all accounts. We cite it here at the 
risk of some repetition : 

When they divided Purusha, how many portions did they make? 
What did they call his mouth, his arms? 
What did they call his thighs aiid feet/ 

°Op. cit., pp. 143-44- 

'Cf. Stanley Rice, Hindu Customs and Their Origins, pp. 39-40. 

86 Caste, Class, and Race 

The Brahman was his mouth, 

Of both his arms was the Rajanya made; 

His thighs became the Vaisya, 

From his feet the Sudra was produced.^'^ 

The Rig-Vedic description is as limited as that ; without elaboration 
or further explanations it stands in stark finality, one of the most 
powerful bits of philosophy in Hindu culture. This story of creation is 
valuable, not so much as an accurate description of the origin of caste, 
but rather as an indication of the fact that, even at so early a period 
(about looo B.C.), the most thoughtful men had been so far removed 
from the true social basis of castes or of social estates that it had be- 
come possible for them to accept a mythical explanation. The myth 
may be also indicative of the crescive nature, of the caste system. Since 
the Hindus do not have a historical theory of caste, we shall pass on to 
some of the modern explanations. 

There are, as we have noticed, many modern theories^^ of the origin 
of caste, but they may all be classified broadly into two categories : ( a ) 
those having a cultural explanation, and (b) those having a racial ex^ 
planation. The number of writers accepting the latter type of explana- 
tion is probably many hundreds. All, however, have some variation of 
the idea that the early Aryans were determined to keep their white 
blood pure and that caste was their most effective method. Fewer 
theorists rely on a cultural hypothesis, but among them there is greater 
diversity of opinion. We shall consider the racial approach first. 

Pure-Blood Theories 

We shall have to quote fairly lengthy passages, for a paraphrasing of 
the authors may do violence to their thoughts. The early social life of 
the Hindus is obscure because there is very little historical record of it ; 

^"Hymns of the Rigveda, translated with a popular commentary by Ralph T. H. 
Griffith, 2d ed., X, 90:11 — 12. For other later stories of creation, see John Muir, 
Original Sanskrit Texts on the Origin and History of the People of India, Vol. I. 

""Roughly speaking, there may be said to be five important theories of the 
origin of caste. Apart from minor variations and combinations of these five, there 
is first the traditional view of the origin of caste typified in the Code of Manu; 
there is the occupational explanation of which Nesfield was the best-known ex- 
ponent; the tribal and religious explanation of Ibbetson; the family or gentile 
explanation offered by Senart; and the racial and hypergamous explanation of 
Risley." Census of India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 433. 

For a well-taken criticism of Senart's theory, see Macdonell and Keith, op. cit., 
Vol. II, pp. 268ff. See also for a recent discussion of the origin of caste: J. H. Hut- 
ton, Caste in India, pp. 1 1 7-66. 

The Origin of Caste 87 

hence, attempts to ferret out social situations usually involve deductive 

It is generally recognized that Sir Herbert Risley has been the most 
insistent advocate of the racial theory of caste. He did considerable 
anthropometrical research among the Hindus, using his racial hypoth- 
esis as a guide. However, the reliability of his data and the validity of 
his conclusions have been questioned by later observers.^- There re- 
mains, then, only his hypothesis supported by deductive reasoning. 
Risley puts his theory in the form of a law of race contact. ^^ It runs 
roughly as follows : White men in contact with people of color will take 
women from the colored group but will not give their own women. 
When the whites have bred enough white women, "they will close their 
ranks" and form a superior caste. The mixed bloods will then close their 
ranks, forming additional castes with degrees of superiority based upon 
lightness of color. 

This hypothesis covers considerable ground, hence we shall postpone 
consideration of it. In fact, what Risley has really achieved is an ex- 
planation of caste in terms of race relations and, having done so, he 
called race relations caste. Nripendra Kumar Dutt, writing more re- 
cently on the origin of caste, presents a variation of Risley, but his 
approach is somewhat more historical. Let us consider this: 

That the color question was at the root of the varna system is apparent 
from the meaning of the word varna (complexion) and from the great 
emphasis with which the Vedic Indians distinguished themselves from 
the non-Aryans in respect to color. The class which retained the utmost 

""Risley's conclusions, based on measurements made by him in Bengal, have 
been called in question by Crooke in the United Provinces, Enthovcn in Bombay, 
and Thurston in Madras, while O'Donnell has argued that even in Bengal measure- 
ments are often at variance with it." Census of India, igii. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 381. 
For further criticism, see Census of India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. i, pp. 439ff., and Vol. 
V,Pt. i,pp. 432fr. 

""Wherever in the history of the world one people has subdued another, whether 
by sudden invasion or by gradual occupation of their territory, the conquerors have 
taken the women of the country as concubines or wives, but have given their own 
daughters in marriage only among themselves. Where these two peoples are of the 
same race, or at any rate of the same color, this initial stage of hypergamy soon 
passes away and complete amalgamation takes place. Where, on the other hand, 
marked distinctions of race and color intervene, and especially if the dominant 
people are continually recruited by men of their own blood, the course of evolution 
runs on different lines. The tendency then is toward the formation of a class of 
half-breeds, the result of irregular unions between men of the higher and women 
of the lower, who marry only among themselves and are to all intents and purposes 
a caste. In this literal or physiological sense, caste is not confined to India. It 
occurs in a pronounced form in the Southern States of the American Republic, 
where negroes, and the various mixed races, mulattoes, quadroons, and octoroons, 
each have a sharply restricted jus connubi of their own and are practically cut off 
from legal unions with the white race. The same set of phenomena may be ob- 

88 Caste, Class, and Race 

purity of color by avoiding intermixture naturally gained precedence in 
the social scale. The Brahmans were white, the Kshatriyas red, the Vaisyas 
— because of large absorption of black blood — were yellowish like the 
mulattoes of America, and the Sudras black, as is described in the 

In the first stage the Indo-Aryans were divided into three orders or 
varnas. They had no scruple in marrying indiscriminately among them- 
selves, while racial hatred made them avoid contact with the non- Aryan 
Sudras. The memory of this age is preserved in the Mahabharata, 
Anushasana Parva, where it is stated that "The son of a Brahman by 
wives of the three varnas is a Brahman. Only four varnas are known to 
exist; a fifth does not exist." In other words, the son invariably belonged 
to the order of his father, whatever might be the rank of his mother. Such 
a statement is not subscribed to by any of the Dharmasastras. As, however, 
the Vaisyas came into greater association with the Sudras and became 
more polluted with non- Aryan blood than the two other classes, aversion 
came to be felt towards the union in marriage with a Vaisya girl. 

This state of caste development is represented in a sloka of the same 
Anushasana Parva which states that: "of the four wives of four orders of 
a Brahman, in the two higher he himself (i.e., a Brahman) is born, in the 
two lower less pure sons are born who belong to their mother's varna." 
This state of things evidently continued till about the time of Manu, 
who also does not assign a separate caste to the son of a Brahman father 
and a Kshatriya mother. With the hardening of caste rules in the course 
of time, even this freedom was restricted. In the later Dharmasastras we 
find that none could become a Brahman who was not born of Brahman 
parentage on both sides. When the marriage with a Sudra woman was so 
much abhorred and blamed, we can easily conceive of the horror and 
detestation which a Brahman in his racial pride would feel at the sight of 
a Brahman woman marrying a Sudra. No words are too strong to con- 
demn such a marriage, and as a deterrent it is enacted that the issue of 
such a union should occupy the humblest position in society. Thus we see 
that the development of inter-caste marriage restrictions was principally 
due to the racial difference between white conquerors and the black, and 
the desire of the former to preserve their purity of blood. ^* 

Dutt's hypothesis contains just about the whole gamut of spurious 
reasoning on this problem; therefore, it is particularly appropriate as 
a model for discussion. We shall first mention broadly some of the 
points which come into question and then discuss their significance in 
other sections of this chapter. 

served among the half-breeds of Canada, Mexico, and South America, and among 
the Eurasians of India, who do not intermarry with the natives and only occasionally 
with pure-blood Europeans." Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol. I, new ed., p. 345. 
See also The People of India, 2d ed., pp. 56 passim. G. S. Ghurye has criticized 
Rislfey's explanation but has himself presented a similar racial theory; see Caste 
and Race in India, p. 108. 

^*Origin and Growth of Caste in India, Vol. I, pp. 21-23. [Italics added.] 

The Origin of Caste 89 

Probably the most common explanation of the origin of caste is 
based upon beliefs that the word "varna" means color; hence, caste 
must have originated in the Aryan's passion for protecting their light 
Asiatic color from intermixture with the dark color of the Dravidians. 
However, as we shall attempt to indicate below, the early literature of 
the Hindus does not show this to be the case. 

It becomes necessary for Dutt to rely upon even such remote meta- 
phorical descriptions of the castes as white, red, yellow, and black. 
There is understandably some silence about explaining why the blood 
of the princes had already become "red" and only that of the priests 
had remained white — and this in spite of the fact that the Brahmanas 
and the Kshatriyas intermarried freely. In fact, Professor Hopkins has 
shown that in the Vedic period the Kshatriyas were the ruling caste in 
India.^^ If we take these disconnected references to color as implying 
superiority, then "red" must have been superior to white. As we shall 
see below, the term "varna" has other meanings besides color.^" The 
analogy with the mulattoes in America is rather astonishing but char- 
acteristic of these theories. 

One assumption which seems fatal to these theories is that there were 
two color castes before there were castes within any one color group. 
Not only is this position unrevealed in the data, but also reliance upon 
it has led to such confused statements as : "The class which retained the 
utmost purity of color by avoiding intermixture naturally gained pre- 
cedence in the social scale." Why "naturally"? What docs our writer 
mean by "class"? If it means caste, then castes were formed before they 
began to avoid color mixture. 

Let it be said that we have no record of the racial composition of the 
Sudras. The term "Sudra" is not synonymous with "Dravidian." 
Neither do we have any authority for the statement : "Indo-Ar\'ans had 
no scruple in marrying indiscriminately among themselves." The period 
is not known when a Vaisya man could freely marry a Brahman woman 
or even a Kshatriya woman. Only in the legendary narratives do kings 
wed the daughters of priests, but it is a platitude of the Mahabharata 
that no woman could marry into the caste beneath hers. Hopkins quotes 
the epic story of a Brahman woman and a king. Says the king: "Thou 

"Edward W. Hopkins, "The Social and Military Position of the Ruling Caste in 
Ancient India," Journal of American Oriental Society, Vol. XIII, i888. 

^°It should be remarked that the criterion of a single word, "varna," could never 
be accepted as adequate evidence of racial antagonism among Vedic Indians. 
Racial antagonism is a peculiar and complicated form of intergroup relationship, 
and it is this relationship which must be identified. We might just as well conclude 
that the Indo-Aryans ran locomotives in northwestern India because, let us say, 
the word "steam" is frequently used in the Vedas. 

90 Caste, Class, and Race 

canst have no connubial connection with me, for thou shouldst not 
make a caste mixture."^'^ 

Then, too, in spite of the assumed "horror" of mixture with the 
darker race, Brahman men were privileged to have wives from all three 
castes below them, Kshatriyas from the two lower ones, and Vaisyas 
from the Sudras. Therefore, Brahmans may be said to have been the 
most flagrant mixers of blood in India. If color were indeed the deter- 
mining factor, is it possible to say that if a person happened to be white 
he ipso facto became a Brahman, if black, a Sudra, so that one might 
look upon a man and classify him unquestionably? The historical data 
do not sustain this possibility. 

The usual way of making the evidently impossible transition from 
the racial origin of caste to the non-racial caste system as we know it is 
to employ some such phrase as "with the hardening of caste rules in the 
course of time." Yet why should caste rules "harden"? We should ex- 
pect them to have been relaxed, for as the population became increas- 
ingly mixed — so much so that today Brahmans are not infrequently 
darker in complexion than lower-caste persons — the raison d'etre of 
caste should have vanished. Should we say that the memory that at 
one time Aryans protected themselves from intermixture by preventing 
their women from marrying darker persons is sufficient to perpetuate 
the caste system with increasing rigidity? It would be indeed difficult 
to accept such a proposition. 

Moreover, if it is true that the Vaisya became so mixed that they 
were classed with the Sudras, how is it that they were able to maintain 
the "purity" of their caste as against the Sudras? Could it be that these 
people were so homogeneously "yellow" that they were able to main- 
tain themselves intact, and this considering the fact that Vaisya men 
married Sudra women? Finally, if color were really the test of caste, 
how was it possible to make the cross between a Sudra man and a 
Brahman woman the most despised of all castes? The status of the off- 
spring of Vaisya men and Brahman women was considered to be lower 
than that of Sudras. Certainly both these crosses must have resulted in 
offspring very much lighter in complexion than that of the lower-caste 
men. Is it possible that a system as permanent and as rigid as the caste 
order of India could be built upon skin color — distinguished not by 
color as such but by the parentage of the color groups? We might have 
castes of very light people occupying a position much below that of 
black Sudras merely because they originated from higher-caste mothers 
and lower-caste fathers. The pure-blood theories leave these questions 

"Op. cit., p. 352. 

The Origin of Caste 91 

The writers who use modern ideas of race relations for the purpose 
of explaining the origin of caste make an uncritical transfer of modern 
thought to an age which did not know it. The early Indo-Aryans could 
no more have thought in modem terms of race prejudice than they 
could have invented the airplane. The social factors necessary for think- 
ing in modem terms of race relations were not available. It took some 
two thousand years more to develop these ideas in Western society, 
and whatever there is of them in India today has been acquired by 
recent diffusion. 

The Aryans could not have known the world position of white 
people. Says Manu : "All those tribes in this world, which are excluded 
from the community of those born from the mouth, the arms, the 
thighs, and the feet of Brahma are called Dasyus."^'* Like most primi- 
tive peoples, their world was limited to the known environment. Evi- 
dently the Dasyus were the Dravidians and aborigines who had not yet 
entered the caste system. Yet it is astonishing how many writers inter- 
pret these references to the Dasyus as indicating a bipartite race-caste 
system. The fact that the early authorities usually mention four castes 
already developed among the Aryans seems to have slipped them alto- 

^®Manu, X, 45. The Dasyus, or Mlechchhas, were evidently the Dravidian war- 
riors, "the unsubdued foreign tribes who did not speak Sanskrit and had not been 
influenced by Ar)'an culture." W. Crooke, "Sudra," Encyclopedia of Religion and 
Ethics. The Dasyu, of course, should not be thought of as constituting a caste. The 
following excerpt from The Cambridge History of India indicates further the 
simple reasoning employed in developing a theory of the racial basis of caste: 
"The distinction between the Aryan colour (varna) and that of the aborigines is 
essential and forms the basis of caste. The question is thus narrowed down to the 
consideration of the arguments for and against the view that in the Ar\'an» them- 
selves caste divisions were appearing." Vol. I, p. 92. This statement is indeed sur- 
prising when one considers that all the author has in support of his conclusion is 
his belief that the word "varna" means color of skin. How this assumed two-caste 
system developed into the great multiplicity of castes, of course, is not explained. 

"In this discussion we do not mean to say that the Aryan invaders did not 
recognize that they were of different color and culture from the native Indians, 
the Dasas or Dasyus; indeed we should assume that the latter made a similar 
recognition. Yet it is conclusions like the following for which we do not find sup- 
port: "The main distinction between the Aryan varna, colour, and the black colour 
is unquestionably one of the main sources of the Indian caste system. The over- 
throw of the black skin is one of the most important exploits of the Vedic Indian." 
A. Berriedale Keith in The Cambridge History of India, Vol. I, p. 85. And this 
authority has no conflict of reasoning when, from the threads of history, he is led 
to conclude : "in the age of the Rigveda there was going on a steady process of 
amalgamation of the invaders and the aborigines, whether through the influence 
of intermarriage with slaves or through friendly and peaceful relations with power- 
ful Dasa tribes." Ibid., p. 86. For a similar view, see Herbert H. Gowen, A History 
of Indian Literature. Gowen describes the Aryans in this way: "They are tall men, 
proud of their white skins to the disdain of others." Ibid., p. 43. 

The term "Dasyus" seems to have been used by the Ar^'ans in the same sense 
that the Greeks use the term "barbarian" to mean all those people whose culture 

92 Caste, Class, and Race 

Even if it were possible for the Aryans to know the world condition 
of light-complexioned peoples, there would have been no particular 
cause for pride in identifying themselves with, say, the ancestors of the 
haughty Teutons of today. At that time the Dravidians evidently had a 
higher culture than that of the Aryans. The error made by the over- 
enthusiastic comparative philologists of the nineteenth century in 
identifying the Aryan family of languages with an Aryan race bears no 
little part of the responsibility for confusion in the study of caste. In 
referring to this general tendency to identify culture and race, Marcellin 
Boule writes: 

It must be fully understood that race, representing the continuity of a 
physical type, stands for an essentially natural grouping, which can have 
nothing and in general has nothing in common with the people, the 
nationality, the language, or the customs corresponding to groupings that 
are purely artificial, in no way anthropological, and due entirely to his- 
tory, whose actual products they are. Thus there is no Breton race, but 
there is a Breton people; no French race, but a French nation; no Aryan 
race, but Aryan languages; no Latin race, but Latin civilization.^" 

The Indo-Aryans have left no account of their pre-migration home- 
land, and it has not yet been determined. Some writers, however, have 
stated that the Indo-Aryans were the first white people who were faced 
with the problem of keeping their blood free from admixture with that 
of darker peoples. But this seems to be a pyramiding of assumptions. In 
the first place, we do not know when the Aryans entered India ;^^ 
hence it may be futile to embark upon a discussion, the validity of 
which can depend only on definite knowledge of the date of Aryan 

But suppose we grant priority of contact for the moment ; it yet does 
not appear why the mere fact of first meeting of whites and peoples of 
color should be more favorable to the formation of a caste system than 
the second or third meeting. Obviously the Aryans did not know they 
were making the first contact; hence they could not have taken this 
into consideration. Moreover, it is certain that quite early different 
races lived together about Egypt and North Africa without develop- 
ing a form of social organization similar to that of Brahmanic India : 

ChampoUion has given the well-known picture of the human races 
of ancient Egypt after the paintings in the royal tombs of Biban el Moluk 

differed from their own. Thus J. N. Farquhar observes: "The differences between 
[the Dasyus] and the Aryans on which the hymns [the earliest literature of the 
Aryans] lay most stress are religious." The Religious Quest of India: An Outline 
of the Religious Literature of India, p. 5. 

^Quoted in Race and History, by Eugene Pittard, p. x. 

"See Ibid., p. 289, for various estimates of the date of entry. 

The Origin of Caste 93 

(The Valley of the Kings) . These men, led by the shepherd of the Horns 
people, belonged to four distinct families. The first, nearest to the god, 
were of a dark red colour. . . . There can be no doubt whatever about 
him who comes next : he belongs to the Negro race known under the gen- 
eral name of Nehasi. The next one presents a different aspect : his skin is 
fresh-coloured, verging on yellow; he is bronzed with a strong aquiline 
nose. . . . This race bears the name of Aamu (Asiatics) . Finally, the last 
has the skin colour we call fresh-coloured or white-skinned in its most 
delicate tint, and a straight, slightly arched nose, blue eyes, fair or ruddy 
beard. . . . He is clothed in an undressed bullock-hide, a veritable savage, 
tattooed on difTerent parts of his body; this race is called Tamahu (Euro- 
peans) .^- 

The period of itself, then, does not seem to be a factor determining 

With respect to the question of identifying race relations in other 
parts of the world with the origin of caste, we may observe an interest- 
ing cycle in thinking. The theorists usually begin by comparing the 
origin of caste with the modem white-black pattern of race relation- 
ships. An identification of the phenomena having been made, they 
proceed to establish their racial theory of caste ; then they return forth- 
with to identify present-day race relationship with caste. In the mean- 
time, they remain oblivious of the ongoing caste system as we know it 
in India. Therefore, their origin of caste, and not that of caste in action, 
becomes the standard. In other words, they must assume race relations 
today to be caste relations only as they conceive of the latter in their 

Color as a Factor 

The word "varna" is practically all that the pure-blood theorists 
have in support of their position. Observe with what assurance H. D. 
Griswold reaches his conclusion : "The difference in colour was one of 
the causes that lay at the foundation of caste, for the very name of caste 
is varna, 'colour.' "-^ As a matter of fact, however, Bohtlingk and Roth 
state in their Sanskrit-W orterbuch that the word "varna" means ap- 
pearance, exterior, color, kind, species, caste; and Manu has used 
"varna" synonymously with "jati," which means birth — the form of 
existence determined by birth, position, rank, family, descent, kind, 

^Eugene Pittard, op. cit., pp. 413-14. See also Edward Eyre, European Civiliza- 
tion, Vol. I, pp. 289, 359. 

^The Religion of the Rigveda, p. 40. And, as is commonly done, this author 
found a satisfying analogy between the Indian situation and the "color line" de- 
veloped in Africa and America. 

94 Caste, Class, and Race 

But dictionary definitions are rather limited ; hence we shall have to 
examine the application of the color concept in the literature. The fol- 
lowing is the celebrated passage in the Mahabharata, so much relied 
upon by some students of caste. We quote it at length : 

Bhrigu replied: "The Lord . . . also formed . . . men, Brahmans, 
Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras, as well as other classes of beings. The 
colour of the Brahman was white ; that of the Kshatriyas red ; that of the 
Vaisyas yellow; and that of the Sudras black." Bharadvaja here rejoins: 
"If the caste of the four classes is distinguished by their colour, then a 
confusion of all the castes is observable." . . . Bhrigu replies: "There is 
no diflPerence of castes; This world having been first created by Brahma 
entirely Brahmanic, became separated into castes in consequence of works. 
Those Brahmans who were fond of sensual pleasure, fiery, irascible, prone 
to violence, who had forsaken their duty, and were red-limbed, fell into 
the condition of Kshatriyas. Those Brahmans who derived their liveli- 
hood from kine, who were yellow, who subsisted by agriculture, and who 
neglected to practice their duties, entered into the state of Vaisyas. Those 
Brahmans who were addicted to mischief and falsehood, who were 
covetous, who lived by all kinds of work, who were black and had fallen 
from purity, sank into the condition of Sudras. Being separated from 
each other by these works, the Brahmans became divided into different 
castes. Duty and the rites of sacrifice have not always been forbidden to 
any of them."^* 

It is from this passage that authority has been derived for many con- 
clusions about racial antagonism among the early Indo-Aryans. 
Pratapa C. Roy, translator of the Mahabharata, says, "The commen- 
tator explains that the words expressive of the hue of color really mean 
attributes. What is intended to be said is that the Brahmans had the 
attribute of goodness; the second order the attribute of passion; while 
the lowest order got the remaining attribute, viz., darkness. "^^ 

Consider, on the other hand, the meaning which G. S. Ghurye reads 
into the same passage: "The colour connotation of the word was so 
strong that later on when the classes came to be regularly described as 
varnas, four difTerent colours were assigned to the four classes, by which 
their members were supposed to be distinguished."'*' The author, of 
course, does not show by historical data that vama really symbolized 

^*Santiparvan, verses 6930!!., quoted by John Muir, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 139-41. 
According to this version, "The commentator . . . explains the different colours 
mentioned ... as follows: red (rakta) means 'formed of the qualities of passion' 
. . . yellow (pita) 'formed of the qualities of passion and darkness' . . . and black 
'formed of darkness only.' " Ibid., note pp. 140—41. 

^Mahabharata, Vol. II, Santiparvan, p. 48, note. 

^"Op. cit., p. 42. Cf. Vincent A. Smith, Oxford History of India, p. 26. 

The Origin of Caste 95 

racial antipathy between Aryan and Dravidian ; reference to this four- 
fold color scheme is his sole reliance. 

The metaphorical use of color in the Mahabharata seems to be 
closely identified with some sort of incipient dharma, a way-of-life 
virtue complex. Vishnu uses it somewhat in the same sense : "What has 
been acquired by the mode of livelihood of their own caste, by members 
of any caste, is called 'white.' What has been acquired by the mode of 
livelihood of the caste next below in order of their own is called 
'mottled.' What has been acquired by the mode of livelihood of the 
caste two or more degrees lower than their own is called 'black.' ""' In 
other uses, color seems to be "a symbol of the inherent qualities of 
nature." Thus in the Varnapavan of the Mahabharata a god says of 
himself: "My color in the Krita age is white, in the Treta yellow; when 
I reach the Dvapara, it is red, and in the Kali black."-® And in the 
Taittiriya Brahmana, ii: 3, 8, i, it is related: "Prajapati desired, 'May 
I propagate.' He practiced austerity. He became pregnant. He became 
yellow-brown. Hence a woman when pregnant, being yellow, becomes 
brown. Being pregnant with a foetus, he [Prajapati] became ex- 
hausted. Being exhausted, he became blackish-brown. Hence an ex- 
hausted person becomes blackish-brown.""^ Again in the same book of 
the Mahabharata from which the preceding color scheme is taken, 
the following explanation appears: "Six colours of living creatures are 
of principal importance, black, dusky, and blue which lies between 
them ; then red is more tolerable, yellow is happiness, and white is ex- 
treme happiness. White is perfect, being exempt from stain, sorrow and 
exhaustion ; possessed of it, a being goes through various births, arrives 
at perfection in a thousand forms."^° 

We are not even certain which skin color, if any, was always prefer- 
able among the early Aryo-Dravidians. As Dr. Mees points out: 

The white complexion was not always the most popular and the most 
admired one. Shri-Krishna, the greatest Hindu Divine Incarnation and 
human hero, was always being called the "dark-cloud-faced one" or the 
"dusky-one" or the "dark-blue-one," and Rama, the divine hero, usually 
being represented as dark or blue or green. These two were the ideal of 
all that was most beautiful in a man. In the Bhagavata the beauty of Suka, 

="Vishnu, LVIII, 6-8. 

^Verse 12981, quoted by John Muir, op. cit., p. 145, note. 

^"Quoted, ibid., p. 23. 

^"Mahabharata, Santiparvan, 10058-59. See also Vishnu Purana, ii: 4-12, where, 
in describing worlds unknown, reference is made to the color of castes: "The 
castes which dwell there are severally the Kapilas, Aruneas, Pita, and Krishnas, or 
the Tawny, the Purple, the Yellow, and the Black." Quoted in John Muir. op. cit.. 
Vol. I, pp. 498-99. 

96 Caste, Class, and Race 

the "glorious son of Vyasa," is described at length. He is said to be of 
dark complexion. ^^ 

Mees continues to observe that "as regards physical beauty, the 
Indo-Aryans and the cultured Dravidians were equally handsome."®^ 
Nor was the literature always consistent in the figurative use of color as 
applied to human beings. Professor Weber quotes a passage from the 
Kathaka Brahmana which reverses somewhat the color scheme of the 
Mahabharata: "Since the Vaisya offers an oblation of white (rice) to 
the Adityas, he is bom as it were white ; and as a Varuna oblation is of 
black (rice) the Rajanya is as it were dusky."^^ The case for color as a 
dominant factor in the development of caste, then, does not seem to be 
supported by the use of the word "vama" in the literature. We shall 
now consider two well-known cultural theories of caste. 

The Theories of Ibbetson and Nesfield 

Both Denzil Ibbetson and John C. Nesfield worked officially with the 
1 88 1 census of India; they both developed occupational theories of 
caste, but Nesfield's is the more elaborate. Briefly, Ibbetson holds that 
caste is little more than an ordinary class society made rigid. His ap- 
proach to the problem of origin is rather deductive. Laying down a 
principle of social differentiation for all societies, he dispenses with the 
necessity of treating the Hindu situation as a special case.^* This ex- 

'"Gualtherus H. Mees, op. cit., p. 58. See also Indian Year Book, 1939-40, p. 16. 

==Ibid., p. 68. 

^Quoted by John Muir, op. cit.. Vol. I, p. 140. 

^*The substance of Ibbetson's theory follows: "In every community which the 
world has ever seen, there have been grades of position and distinctions of rank; 
and in all societies these grades and distinctions are governed by two considerations : 
descent and calling. As civilization advances and the ideas of the community ex- 
pand in more liberal growth, the latter is ever gaining in importance at the 
expense of the former; the question what a man is, is ever more and more taking 
precedence of the question what his father was. But in no society that the world 
has yet seen has either of these two considerations ever wholly ceased to operate; 
in no community has the son of the coal-heaver been born the equal of the son 
of the nobleman . . . while in all the son has begun where the father left off. The 
communities of India in whose midst the Hindu religion has been developed are 
no exception to this inile; but in their case special circumstances have combined 
to preserve in greater integrity and to perpetuate under a more advanced state of 
society than elsewhere the hereditary nature of occupation, and thus in a higher 
degree than in other modern nations to render identical the two principles of 
community of blood and community of occupation. And it is this difference, a 
difference of degree rather than of kind, a survival to a later age of an institution 
which has died out elsewhere rather than a new growth peculiar to the Hindu 
nation, which makes us give a new name to the old thing and call caste in India 
what we call position or rank in England. The whole basis of diversity of caste is 
diversity of occupation. The old division into Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya, Sudra, 
and Mlechchha or outcaste who is below the Sudra, is but a division into the priest, 
the warrior, the husbandman, the artisan, and the menial; and the more modern 

The Origin of Caste 97 

planation, however, is so generalized and ideally constructed that it 
must be of little value for an understanding of the early history of caste. 
Because of this fact we shall not examine it critically. 

The most carefully developed cultural theory of caste is that of 
John C. Nesfield. It has been called the occupational theory, in a very 
limited sense, by most authorities who wish to differ with it.^' Nesfield 
insists that no racial theory of caste can stand, because before the system 
became organized the population had already become inseparably 
mixed : 

The restrictions of marriage which are now imposed by rules of caste 
did not begin to exist until at least a thousand years after the Aryans had 
come into the country, and by this time the Aryan blood had been ab- 
sorbed beyond recovery into the indigenous. It was not till the time of 
Manu, that is, about 200 B.C. or later, that the caste rules in regard to 
marriages were coming into force. Even then, as his own writings show, 
they were not universally accepted by Brahmans themselves : for he waxes 
very wroth with certain Brahmans of his own day who persisted in the 
habit of taking Sudra or low-caste women as their first wives. ... It is 
clear, then, that prior to his time, that is, ever since the Aryan invader 
had set foot on Indian soil, which must have been more than a thousand 
years before his code was compiled, a Brahman or professional priest (for 
Brahman caste did not then exist) , could marry any woman that he liked. ^° 

Besides emphasis upon the point that the population had become 
amalgamated quite early, Nesfield asserts that even today "a Bengali 
Brahman looks like other Bengalis, a Hindustani like other Hindu- 
stanis, a Mahratti like other Mahrattis, and so on, which proves that 
the Brahmans of any given nationality are not of different blood from 
the rest of their fellow-countrymen."^^ 

Briefly, the theory runs as follows: The priesthood was not at first 
an exclusive monopoly of Brahmans; sacrifices were performed and 
invocations composed by the military chiefs. But when the hymns were 

development which substituted trader for husbandman as the meaning of Vaisya 
or 'the people' did not alter the nature of the classification. ... I have attempted 
to show in the preceding paragraphs that pride of blood, especially in the upper, 
and shame of occupation, especially in the lower classes, are in all societies the 
principal factors which regulate social rank ; and that when Brahmanism developed 
caste, all that it did was to bind the two together, or at least to prevent the disso- 
lution of the tie which bound them and which would have broken down in the 
ordinary course of social evolution, and while thus perpetuating the principle of 
the hereditary nature of occupation and social status, to hedge it round and 
strengthen it by a network of artificial rules and restrictions which constitute the 
only characteristic peculiar to the institution of caste." Panjab Castes, p. 13. 

*^For a mistaken presentation of Nesfield's theory, see, for example, J. D. Ander- 
son, The Peoples of India, pp. I3ff. 

'"John C. Nesfield, op. cit., p. 76. 

""Ibid., pp. 75-76. 

98 Caste, Class, and Race 

collected into liturgies and the sacrifices became more complicated, 
specialization became a necessity. The importance of the sacrifice to 
the well-being of society gave the priesthood a position of great honor; 
the tendency was for the priesthood to become hereditary, like royalty. 
"When the Brahman had thus set the example of forming himself into 
an exclusive and highly privileged caste, the other classes in the com- 
munity were compelled to take what precaution they could for securing 
privileges as were within their reach; and they did this, not merely in 
self-defense, but in imitation of a class of men whom they had been 
accustomed for centuries to regard with deepest veneration. If Brah- 
mans had been a celibate order, like the Roman Catholic priesthood 
in western Europe . . . the example which Brahmans gave of setting 
up caste barriers against outsiders, might have had no effect upon the 
general structure of society."^^ 

This, then, is Nesfield's account of the beginnings of caste in India. 
The author concludes by saying: "The main contention urged in this 
paper remains unshaken, that the Indian race is practically one in 
blood, character, traditions, and sympathies, and that caste is not, a 
question of blood but of function."'^ The latter statement is broad in- 
deed; it shares no little part of the responsibility for other students dis- 
carding the whole theory. Moreover, his explanation might have been 
much more acceptable had he not marbled into it an almost distinct 
theory based upon Herbert Spencer's "stages of civilization." Reliance 
is put upon a universal evolutionary theory of culture, of which the four 
stages are the hunting, the pastoral, the agricultural, and the industrial 
stage. Thus he asserts : 

Each group of castes represents one or other of those progressive stages 
of culture which have marked the industrial development of mankind not 
only in India, but in every other country in the world, wherein some ad- 
vance has been made from primeval savagery to the arts and industries 
of civilized life. The rank of any caste as high or low depends upon 
whether the industry represented by the caste belongs to an advanced or 
backward stage of culture; and thus the natural history of human indus- 
tries affords the chief clue to the gradations as well as the formation of 
Indian castes. Such in rough outline is the theory of caste advocated in 
these pages. *° 

It should be easily evident that this is too nice a formulation to be 
accepted without question. It has resulted in some confusion of an ex- 

^Ibid., p. 100. 

-Ibid., p. 39. 

'"John C. Nesfield, op. cit., p. 88. 

The Origin of Caste 99 

Dlanation of the caste system which otherwise seems to have consider- 
able merit. We shall refer again to Nesfield. 

The Varna Theory 

Dr. Gualtherus H. Mees has developed a varna theory of caste based 
upon the idea of a morally stratified society. As a general premise the 
author says : "Caste or class differences, in East and West equally, were 
at first based on merit and social usefulness, and later tended to be- 
come hereditary and economic."*^ This hypothesis has met with much 
favor, especially in the East, for it tends to give especial dignity to the 
ancestors of high-caste groups. To Mees, a man's varna is his natural 
and right position in society; it was the early Hindu ideal. "Varna . . . 
is the Hindu ideal and theoretical picture of class based upon 
Dharma,"^^ the good life. "We have not rendered 'Varna' as 'class' be- 
cause 'Varna' presents the theory and ideal of 'class,' and the word 
'class' at once suggests historical and actual classes. . . . We have 
translated Varna as 'natural class.' "^^ 

According to the author, the varnas are a population gradient of 
social usefulness. "The four Varnas represent degrees of sociality from 
the most highly social to the extreme non-social. ... In a healthy and 
harmonious society the population classes correspond to the Varnas."^* 
And Mees believes further that "the ancient Hindu Sages were far 
wiser than we now think,'"' because they planned a "varna society." 
In support of this contention he cites the religious rationalization of 
the social order from the Mahabharata: 

A man, whether he be a Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya, or Sudra, is such 
by nature, this is my opinion. By evil deed a twice-born man falls from 
his position. . . . The Kshatriya or Vaisya who lives in the condition of a 
Brahman, by practicing the duties of one, attains to Brahmanhood. . . . 
By practicing the following good works, a Sudra becomes a Brahman."*'"' 

Literally, and out of its context, the foregoing passage would seem to 
abandon completely many principles of caste. The reference, however, 
seems to indicate a karmic ideal, for it is not only inconsistent with the 

"^The Hindustan Review, April 1937, p. 652. 
''"G. H. Mees, Dharma and Society, p. 51. 
'^Ibid., p. 52. 
"Ibid., pp. 143-45- 

^'"Caste and Class and Ideals of Equality," Hindustan Review, July 1937, pp. 

'"Ibid., August 1937, p. 85. 

100 Caste, Class, and Race 

theme of the Epic but also incompatible with the closed-group cultural 
development of India. We have only to put the thought positively to 
recognize its imperfections. Thus we may not say: "In the Epic period 
persons born Sudras had only to live like Brahmans in order to attain 
full-fledged Brahmanhood."*^ 

Mees conceives of his varna hierarchy as a gradient of socio-physi- 
ological groups. He compares this "natural hierarchy" to the organs of 
the human body, functioning with varying degrees of excellence.** The 
early authorities, however, thought that although the mouth was 
superior to the foot, each was, in its own way, equally efficient. So far as 
this life was concerned, there was no insistence on the possibility of 
group improvement to a higher status. 

But this theory of "natural class" is even more foreign to anything 
that we know to have ever existed in India. It is in reality a variation 
of the Platonic-Aristotelian philosophy of superiority of "inner nature" 
at birth, and the desirability of fashioning a society that will permit the 
finest natures to gravitate to their natural positions. "Every man," says 
Dr. Mees, "belongs to a certain Varna in accordance with his char- 
acter, social behavior, and function . . . and as he unfolds and grows 
he may himself raise his status to a higher Varna."*^ Originally in 
India, Mees thinks, there was a social hierarchy based upon virtue: 
"Does his class and position correspond to his Varna? His conduct 
indicates it."^° The latter possibility has always been a desideratum in 
social life; however, such a hierarchy still remains to be developed on 
this earth. 

So far as social stratification is concerned, it is ceremony and ritual, 
not character, which are the determining factors. Says Abbe Dubois: 

A Brahman would be degraded and banished from his caste for having 
eaten food which had been prepared, or drunk water that had been 
drawn, by a person of lower caste, but were he convicted of stealing, or 
uttering vile calumnies, of attempting to take another man's life, or of 
betraying his prince or country, none of these offenses would prevent his 
appearing without fear or shame in public, or would hinder his being well 
received everywhere. ^^ 

"'The sense in which the early authorities thought of personaHty is shown in the 
following passage from Manu: "From a Kshatriya and the daughter of a Sudra 
sprang a being, called Ugra, resembling a Kshatriya and a Sudra, ferocious in 
his manners and delighting in cruelty." X, 9. 

^^Dharma and Society, pp. 143-45. 

""Ibid., p. 136. (Italics added.) 

™Ibid., p. 150. 

°Op. cit., p. 661. 

The Origin of Caste lor 

To the same effect Holland writes : "He is a good Hindu who ob- 
serves the rules of caste and the dictates of religious ceremonial, be his 
moral character what it may. No Hindu is ever out-casted for theft 
or lying."'" And Landtman concludes further: "Philosophers of all 
ages have pronounced true human merit and virtue to be independent 
of rank and class. "'^ Furthermore, it should be quite a problem for 
Mees to show how virtue finally became hereditary. 

However, Dr. Mees beheves that this attribute of "natural classes" 
was not peculiar to the early Indo-Aryans: "We cannot escape from 
the conclusion that Christ also distinguished grades of morality and 
sociality, and organs with different social functions."^' But what Christ 
did not say is that virtue is directly correlated with social status. In- 
deed, He was inclined to show an inverse relationship between the two. 
The difficulty with Mees's "natural hierarchy" is that it is highly un- 
natural. Ordinarily we do not find social classes based upon virtue. Al- 
though merits and demerits may tend to determine the place of the 
individual in society, social classes need not consist of individuals of 
uniform merit. What individuals believe privately — their character — 
has never been a determining factor in social stratification. "Behold," 
sings the Psalmist, "these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; 
they increase in riches."'^* 

If one has an upper-class job or is born within a given class and be- 
haves according to the rules of that class, he may leave the practice of 
such things as purity, truth, and kindness to members of any class; 
therefore, "true gentlemen" and "Honest Abes"^'' are not to be thought 
of as constituting a social stratum of society. In the 23rd chapter of 
Matthew, to illustrate further, Jesus rebukes those who sit in high 
places and yet lack basic virtues; nonetheless, there they sit." 

'^W. E. S. Holland, The Indian Outlook, p. i8; see also Godfrey E. Phillips, 
op. cit., p. 29. 

"'Gunnar Landtman, The Origin of the Inequality of the Social Classes, p. i. 

"The equality which is the principal object of sociological interest is not in- 
equality of capability and attainment but of conditions and circumstances. The 
inequality in question here is not inequality of personal gifts but of established 
social gradations." Ibid., p. 3. 

"Op. cit., p. 148. 

"Psalms, 73: 12. 

'^Mecs, op. cit., pp. 144-45. 

"^'Thorstcin Veblcn puts it this way: "Manners presently come, in popular ap- 
prehension, to be possessed of a substantial utility in themselves; they acquire a 
sacramental character. . . . There are few things which so touch us with instinctive 
revulsion as a breach of decorum. ... A breach of faith may be condoned, but a 
breach of decorum cannot. 'Manners maketh the man.' " The Theory of the Leisure 
Class, p. 48. In his advice to him who would be a successful tyrant Aristotle de- 
clares: "[The tyrant should be concerned] always to seem particularly attentive to 

102 Caste, Class J and Race 

An overemphasis on the spiritual nature of the early Indo-Aryan 
system of social stratification leads Dr. Mees to the conclusion that the 
Brahman-Kshatriya-Vaisya-Sudra relationship was a logical one; thus 
he concludes: "Quite in accordance with the theory of Varna one 
would expect mostly Kshatriyas to become Brahmans. . . . From the 
pinnacle of the hierarchy, people are drawn up step by step, each being 
the example of the man next below, and forming the ideal for a group 
farther below."^^ This, indeed, is what should have been; it is as 
natural, however, for the "pinnacle" to be corrupt as it is for it to be a 
beacon of integrity. 

The tendency of persons of lower status to accept the way of life of 
those above them as their ideal of decorum does not mean that such 
acceptance will, ipso facto, result in an advance in status or that the 
ideal will necessarily be judged meritorious for all times and places. In 
fact, the very position of Brahmans at the head of the social structure 
tends to contravene Mees's belief that "man has largely lost the capacity 
to recognize Varnas."^" The pinnacle of a society is ordinarily reserved 
for Caesar, the military class. And so it was in India. Only after a long 
and unparalleled struggle for power did the priests secure that position 
to themselves. "^ 

We have no reason to believe that early Dravido- Aryans were more 
"virtuous" than modern Hindus. The "good old Krita Age, the age of 
virtue," belongs to the system of Hindu mythological chronology. The 
Kali Age of human strife, selfishness, and discord, the age which the 
Hindus actually know, is the only age that they have ever known. The 
Aryans came into India not as missionaries of virtue but rather as con- 
quering, bloodshedding, plundering, wine-drinking, meat-eating, 
gambling, enslaving, internecine, polytheistic hordes — and this not- 
withstanding sporadic flights of idealism in their early literature. This 
array of descriptive terms is by no means intended to derogate from the 
early cultural achievements of the Indo-Aryans; it may appear to do 
so only if we impute modem standards to that period, a transfer which 
some writers are unfortunately too prone to make. 

Let us say, then, that the early God-fearing Aryo-Dravidians never 
attained that form of social organization necessary to allow meritorious 

the worship of the gods; for from persons of such a character men entertain less 
fears of suffering anything illegal while they suppose that he who governs them is 
religious . . . but this must be done so as to give no occasion for any suspicion of 
hypocrisy." Politics, William Ellis, trans., p. 178. 

•^Op. cit., pp. 137, 177. 

^«Ibid., p. 144. 

**^See infra, p. i isfT. 

The Origin of Caste 103 

persons to pass easily up to the top regardless of inherited rank. We 
might err seriously if we rely upon glimmerings of religious ideal'sm in 
the early literature as representative of forms of social organization. The 
varnas were mixed concepts. They included the idea of estate and of 

The Brahmans, authors of the varna myth, were never very much 
interested in describing in detail individuals far from themselves in 
status; hence, they, like the Kshatriyas, were defined functionally, while 
the Vaisyas and Sudras were left as functionally heterogeneous group- 
ings. All the rest of humanity, besides these four categories, were classed 
as one, the Mlechchhas.°^ The farther away in status the group to be 
classified, the less careful the Brahmans were about their definition and 
the more inclusive their classes."" Even to this day Brahmans are not 
particular about distinguishing low-caste people. The latter are gen- 
erally referred to by class terms such as "Sudra" or "Panchama."®^ We 
shall revert to this point in a later section. 

Early Amalgamation of Population 

In a previous section reference was made to Nesfield's contention that 
Indian peoples in contact became mixed before the caste system de- 
veloped; the obvious importance of this position has led us to a further 
consideration of it. We should understand clearly that it has never been 
shown that the Indo-Aryans conceived of themselves as part of a white 
race. "White-race psycholog)'" is a modern phenomenon. The Aryans 
thought of themselves as culturally different from the Dravidians, but 
not culturally superior. They did not think of themselves as a branch 
of a race, the world distribution and status of which they could not pos- 
sibly have known. 

In India they were quickly isolated and, by the time they had de- 
veloped a literature, they had lost all memory of their geographical 
origin. Their mixture with the native population was rapid at first, and 

•""All those tribes in the world, which are excluded from the community of those 
born from the mouth, the arms, the thighs, and the feet of Brahman [the god], are 
called Dasyus, whether they speak the language of the Mlechchhas [barbarians] 
or that of the Aryans." Manu, X, 45. 

"^"The division of Aryans into three classes, while all the non-Aryans except the 
untouchables are lumped together in one, is explained by the fact that the clas- 
sification was made by the members of the former community and that differences 
amongst themselves naturally loomed more largely in their eyes than those amongst 
the Anaryas." Census of India, igi i. Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 366. 

*"'To the Brahman ... it is immaterial whether a man is a Teli, a Kahar, or a 
Nai; the important question for him is whether water can be taken from him or 
not, whether his touch does or does not cause pollution." Ibid. 

104 Caste J Class j and Race 

when the caste system came with its retarding effects upon amalgama- 
tion, neither race nor color was its principal motivation. Retardation 
of complete amalgamation was evidently a by-product rather than a 
main purpose of caste. Our recently developed"* white-colored pattern 
of race relations has been one of the most stubborn distractions to an 
understanding of caste. Ketkar recognized the limiting influence of this 
race hypothesis for the study of Hindu society and remarked: 

Till the arrival of European scholars on Indian soil, the people of 
India never meant by the word "arya" that race of invaders who reduced 
the natives of the soil to servitude. The word indeed probably had such a 
meaning, but only for a short period antedating the concrete beginnings 
of civilization in India. . . . All the princes, whether they belonged to the 
so-called Aryan race or the so-called Dravidian race, were Aryas. Whether 
a tribe or a family was racially Aryan or Dravidian was a question which 
never troubled the people of India until foreign scholars came in and 
began to draw the line.°^ 

Respect for status determined by some cultural mark of superiority 
rather than race seems to have been the concern of the society. The 
Aryans "warred and made alliances indiscriminately with one another 
and with those Dravidian states surrounding them that still maintained 
their independence."^*' Indeed, it appears that the designation 
"Kshatriya" included all the nobility, whether Aryan or Dravidian.®^ 
Of course the Kshatriyas intermarried freely, while Brahmans always 
had the option of taking Kshatriya women as wives. There is very 
little direct reference in the literature to the process of amalgamation; 
however, there are no white castes in India today. "Its early con- 
querors: Aryans, Greeks, Pathans, and Moguls, settled in the country, 
intermarried, lost their white skins, and became Indians.""^ Race 

*'Says Ralph Linton: "Prior to the sixteenth century the world was not race- 
conscious, and there was no incentive for it to become so. The ancient world was 
a small world and because of the gradual transition in physical types which is to 
be found in all continuous geographic areas, the physical differences between the 
classical and the barbarian peoples were not very marked. . . . Even when the 
existence of such physical differences was recognized, they had no immediate social 
connotations. . . . Even the Crusades failed to make Europe race-conscious. . . . 
It is only with the discovery of the New World and the sea routes to Asia that race 
assumed a social significance." The Study of Man, pp. 46-47. 

"'Op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 79, 82. 

""H. J. Fleure, The Dravidian Element in Indian Culture, 1924, p. 61. 

•"A. A. Macdonell and A. B. Keith, Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, 2 vols., 
London, 191 2. 

""H. N. Brailsford, "Indian Question," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Ac- 
cording to H. D. Griswold, "The Kashmiri and Punjab Brahmans represent prob- 
ably the purest Aryan blood, but the whole population ... is to be regarded as 
more or less a mixture. Thus the Vedic antithesis between Aryan and Dasyu has 
been resolved into a higher synthesis consisting of the blending of the two races." 
The Religion of the Rigveda, p. x. 

The Origin of Caste 105 

crossing, so far as it affected physical appearance, seems never to have 
been a problem of the Hindus. 

The following remark of a Hindu scholar, which is obviously a com- 
posite of fact and apprehension, may throw more light on the subject : 

The Brahman orthodoxy does not know what Aryan or Dravidian 
means, nor does it care to inquire into it for its purpose. All that the 
Brahmans care to inquire about is Sanskara (the sacraments) and Karman 
(the aggregate of a man's actions as determining his future fatc-charactcr) . 
. . . But the Hindu of English education is quite different. Hearing of the 
conditions in the United States, those Hindus who think themselves to 
be Aryans wish to demark themselves sharply from those whom they 
think to be Dravidians. ... I shall be very sorry if a superficial acquaint- 
ance with a half-developed and hybrid ethnology, a wrong interpretation 
of ancient documents, and an invented tradition should result in magnify- 
ing racial differences and in making future consolidation and amalgama- 
tion of India more difficult and distant."^ 

Vaisyas and Sudras 

Belief in the fourfold division of caste in India has persisted from the 
Vedic period to this day, yet it appears never to have existed in fact. 
The persistence of this belief is probably due to the influence of Brah- 
mans in the system. Quite obviously this ancient classification of castes 
is not the result of an objective study of Hindu society; rather, it repre- 
sents a picture of society as seen from the point of view of Brahmans. 
And, since Brahmans were the authors of practically all the early litera- 
ture, their insights had more than an even chance of becoming gen- 
erally accepted. As we have mentioned above, the concept "Aryan- 
Anaryan" does not imply a white-caste versus black-caste relationship. 

The three Aryan castes were supposed to be the Brahman or priestly 
caste; the Kshatriya, comprising the "king, his great lords and vassals, 
together with the knightly part of the army" ; and the Vaisya or caste 
of the people. In infancy, individuals born in these three castes had the 
exclusive right to receive the sacrament of initiation, after which they 
were called twice-born. And because of this right these three were 
designated the twice-born castes. The Sudras were the servant caste, 
while all the other people of the world were outcastcs.'" At most, the 
early system might have been in an estate stage of development, when 
large strata of society had attained legal distinction.^**" 

At any rate, the fourfold classification is particularly inaccurate in its 

""S. V. Kctkar, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 78-79, note. 

™See Manu, X, 4. 

^'See J. H. Hutton, Caste in India, p. 59. 

io6 Caste, Class, and Race 

description of the Vaisya, Sudra, and outcastes. These three never 
formed castes in the sense that the priests and royalty were castes. The 
two latter were identified with specific functions and interests ; the three 
former were heterogeneous categories. The fact that Vaisyas and 
Sudras were classified without internal distinction may indicate the 
supercilious disregard in which the military and priestly groups held 
the people in general. This attitude seems to have persisted through the 

The people never had a limited occupation in the sense that the 
Brahmans had one. Macdonell and Keith mention more than a hun- 
dred different occupations and skills as they appear at random in the 
Vedic literature;''^ undoubtedly a census would have shown many more. 
Thus, only by some Procrustean device would it be possible to include 
all these in one caste. One hardly neqds to labor the point that the 
rathagrtsa, or skilled charioteer, must have had a different social posi- 
tion from the malaga, or washerman ; the vanij, or merchant, from the 
sauskala, or seller of dried fish ; the manikara, or jeweler, from the dasa, 
or fisherman. In the law books the duty of the Sudra is repeatedly 
emphasized, but this seems to have been an emphasis on what ought to 
be rather than an exact description of what was actually the case. The 
margin between Sudra and Vaisya classes seems to have been always 
obscure. Not only are the real limits of occupation between them vague, 
but also these two groups are frequently classed together for social dis- 
tinction. Furthermore, they appear to have been highly amalgamated, 
a situation which contravenes the race-caste hypothesis. According to 
Hopkins: "Such co-mingling of Aryan and un- Aryan must have been 
very early; and I fancy that in the earliest period of the Epic, the 
people-caste had already a more and more uncertain line dividing it 
from the yulgar."" 

The Brahmans and the Kshatriyas have been the immemorial castes, 
the stabilizers of the system. Within the Vaisya and Sudra classes, how- 
ever, there have been many castes. Some authorities have doubted 
whether even the Kshatriyas ever constituted a caste ;^^ it seems, how- 
ever, that the repeated specific reference made to Kshatriyas in the 
early literature and the natural tendency for royalty to be endogamous 
favor the conclusion that they were at least as much a caste as the Brah- 
mans. On the other hand, Vaisyas are mentioned only infrequently and 

"^Vedic Index, Vol. II, pp. 585-86. 

''Edward W. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 80. See also G. S. Ghurye, op. cit., pp. 58-59. 
™See S. V. Ketkar, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 96-99; Emile Senart, op. cit., p. 117; 
Vincent A. Smith, op. cit., p. 35. 

The Origin of Caste 107 

Sudras almost not at all. Say Macdonell and Keith : "The Vaisya plays 
singularly little part in Vedic literature, which has much to say of 
Kshatriya and Brahmin."'* 

However, as the Kshatriyas tended to lose their ruling-class status by 
their being reduced from time to time by foreign conquerors, their 
status became increasingly nebulous. In an analysis of the census data of 
1 88 1, Ibbetson explains: 

There is no such thing as a Vaisya now existing; ... it is very doubtful 
indeed whether there is such a thing as a Kshatriya, and if there is, no two 
people are agreed as to where we shall look for him; and . . . Sudra has 
no present significance save as a convenient term of abuse to apply to 
somebody else whom you consider lower than yourself; while the number 
of castes which can be classified under any one or under no one of the 
four heads, according as private opinion may vary, is almost innumerable.''' 

Purport of Anthropometry 

Many attempts have been made to study caste relationship by com- 
paring the physical measurements of different castes. In the Census of 
India, igoi, Herbert Risley, who conducted extensive anthropometrical 
research, reviewing the aim of ethnology, states quite broadly : 

The modern science of ethnology endeavors to define and classify the 
various physical types, with reference to their distinctive characteristics, 
in the hope that when sufficient data have been accumulated, it may be 
possible, in some measure, to account for the types themselves, to deter- 
mine the elements of which they are composed, and thus to establish their 
•connexion with one or other of the great families of mankind.'" 

With these possibilities in mind, Risley set out to develop experi- 
mental techniques for explaining both the origin of caste and modern 
caste relationships. The following classic statement on the subject sums 
up his position : ". . . it is scarcely a paradox to lay down as a law of caste 
organization in Eastern India that a man's social status varies in inverse 
ratio to the width of his nose."^" We have already mentioned that both 
the data and the findings of Risley have been called into question; we 
revert to his conclusions here so that we might discuss the potentialities 
of the method. It has helped him to the belief that caste originated in 
Aryo-Dravidian racial antagonism. 

We may well ask, then. What does anthropometry seek to discover 

'"Macdonell and Keith, "Vaisya," Vedic Index. 
'"Op. cit., p. 2. 
™Vol. I, Pt. I, Sec. 765-66. 

"Herbert H. Risley, The Tribes and Castes of Bengal. Ethnographic Glossary. 
Calcutta, 1 89 1, p. xxxiv. 

io8 Caste, Class, and Race 

about the origin of caste? Suppose, indeed, it is determined that physical 
measurements correlate with caste position; would this fact show that 
caste had its inception in racial antipathy? Caste might have had other 
beginnings, while thousands of years of inbreeding might have resulted 
in distinguishable physical types. In India the number of castes runs 
into thousands; is it possible that even, say, twenty castes should have 
selected common nose widths and maintained them intact over the 
years? That this should be so, of course, is highly absurd. Yet such must 
be the implications of these physical measurements. For, if the caste 
did not purposely select the physical trait which has been protected by 
caste isolation, it must be assumed that the castes have jealously 
guarded their blood for probably thousands of years without actually 
recognizing the physical trait which distinguished them. 

The hypothesis seems to be that, even though in modern times it can- 
not be shown that race difference is a factor determining caste position, 
the fact that the physical measurements of castes vary should be suf- 
ficient proof that race must have been a factor in the past. It must 
follow, therefore, that castes have forgotten their initial motivating 
force ; they do not know that their rigid exclusiveness depends in reality 
upon an ancient technique for preserving racial purity. And since, let 
us say, in southern India today the population is physically homoge- 
neous, modern castes must be considered useless vestiges. 

We need not labor the fallacy of this trend of thought. It should be 
sufficient to determine from actual inquiry the social role of physical 
variation in the system, for it could have been neither necessary nor 
possible for the ancient Hindus to use anthropometrical data in setting 
up their social hierarchy. If race were a factor, simple visibility should 
have answered the purpose. 

We may mention finally that all attempts to rank castes in India ac- 
cording to physical criteria have been fruitless and that none of the 
researchers has been able to state his hypothesis clearly, nor has he been 
able to show the significance of the same for an understanding of the 
caste system.''* 

Brahman-Kshatriya Struggle for Power 

It is the thesis of the eminent student of early Indo-Aryan society, 
Edward W. Hopkins, that priests did not always constitute the highest 

^*See "Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics; G. S. Ghurye, op. cit., pp. 
106-07; C. Bougie, op. cit., pp. 14 iff.; Emile Senart, op. cit., p. 169; Edgar 
Thurston, Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Vol. I, pp. livff. ; D. N. Najundar, 
"Blood Groups and Castes," Nature, Vol. 145, p. 1025. 

The Origin of Caste 109 

caste.^* Only after a long and pertinacious social struggle did the Brah- 
mans succeed in achieving undisputed primacy in the system. In that 
protracted dispute, each side chose its weapons, but the Brahmans' 
proved to be the more potent. The Brahmans readily conceded to the 
Kshatriyas the full expression of temper and of physical prowess over 
mundane matters, but they virtually exhausted the possibilities of in- 
genuity, tact, and subtlety in demonstrating to the Kshatriyas that 
Brahmans controlled the very will of the gods. There was never any open 
encounter between these two powerful groups which settled decisively 
the place of each in society; notwithstanding this, however, the haughty 
Rajanyas were slowly and imperceptibly subdued. 

The Brahmans, never having been centrally organized, presented no 
common front which might have been attacked by the military class. 
They fought individually; therefore, an occasional defeat was more a 
personal matter than a reverse for the Brahman caste as a whole. "It is 
true that they formed an association, that they were an exclusive and 
distinct class. But they formed no corporate body, and had no head. 
They worked as individuals."^** 

The Brahmans never sought to rule the people by taking over the 
powers of the Kshatriyas. They were always willing for — indeed they 
encouraged — the king to administer the law. They recognized the neces- 
sity of the military power; they themselves could not prosper without it. 
Yet they wanted this natural ruling class to realize that it held its posi- 
tion at the pleasure of Brahmans; hence, the king must be humbled in 
the presence of Brahmans even as he would before the gods. 

The following verses from the Institutes of Vishnu show what the 
Brahmans wanted: "Let the king in all matters listen to the advice of 
his astrologers; let him constantly show reverence to the gods and to 
the Brahmans; let him bestow landed property upon Brahmans."®^ 
Thus they wanted to be supreme arbiters of social policy, to be immune 
from punishment by the king, and to be assured of economic security. 
All these things, indeed, the Brahmans finally achieved, but not without 
a struggle. The great Epic "recounts a scene wherein a king meeting a 
priest calls out to him 'Get out of the way' . . . and when the priest 
repeats the 'law eternal' ... it is without effect, and the king even 
smites him with his whip."^- By the time Book IX of Manu was com- 

'""'Social and Military Position of the Ruling Caste in Ancient India," Journal 
of American Oriental Society, Vol. XIII, 1888. 
*Ibid., p. 72. 
"Vishnu, III, 75, 76,81. 
'^Edward W. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 73, note. 

no Caste, Ctass, and Race 

posed, however, the Brahmans were able to say: "When the Kshatriyas 
become in any way overbearing towards the Brahmans, the Brahmans 
themselves shall duly restrain them ; for the Kshatriyas sprang from the 

The priests were the intellectual specialists of the time, and they 
seldom failed to use their ability to advantage. They couched their 
religio-political arguments in favor of their superiority in unnumbered 
wily aspects, until at last they convinced the people.^* 

^Manu, IX, 320. 

Both Jainism and Buddhism were religious movements initiated by Kshatriyas 
partly as reactions to the pretentions of Brahmanism. But since these movements 
did not seriously change the course of Hindu society — Buddhism itself having been 
almost banished from India — we have not considered them in this discussion. 

®'One of the many legends and allegories emphasizing Brahman superiority over 
Kshatriyas appears in the Bhagavata of the Mahabharata, verses 7 1 96 and following. 
It demonstrates the capitulation of Arjuna, a king, who dares to question the 
authority of Brahmans: "Then ascending his chariot glorious as the resplendent 
sun, he exclaimed in the intoxication of his prowess, 'Who is like me in fortitude,, 
courage, fame, heroism, energy, and vigor?' At the end of his speech a bodiless 
voice in the sky addressed him: 'Thou knowest not, O fool, that a Brahman is 
better than a Kshatriya. It is with the help of the Brahman that the Kshatriya 
rules his subjects.' Arjuna answered : 'If I am pleased, I can create, or if I am 
displeased, annihilate, living beings; and no Brahman is superior to me in act, 
thought or word. . . . The Brahmans are dependent on the Kshatriyas, and not 
the Kshatriyas on the Brahmans, who wait upon them and only make the Vedas 
a pretence. ... I shall subdue all those unruly Brahmans clad in hides. . . .' Hear- 
ing this speech of Arjuna, the female roving in the night became alarmed. Then 
Vayu, hovering in the air, said to Arjuna: 'Abandon this sinful disposition, and 
do obeisance to the Brahmans. They will subdue thee; those powerful men will 
humble thee, and expel thee from thy country.' The king asked him, 'Who art 
thou?' Vayu replied: 'I am Vayu, the messenger of the gods, and tell thee what is 
for thy benefit.' Arjuna rejoined, 'Oh, thou displayest today a great warmth of 
devotion to the Brahmans. But say that a Brahman is like any other earth-born 
creature. Or say that this most excellent Brahman is something like the wind.' " 

Vayu, however, goes on to answer this spirited banter by adducing various in- 
stances in which the superiority or terrible power of the Brahmans had been mani- 
fested. . . . The story continues: "When the gods, including Indra, were enclosed 
within the mouth of Mada, the earth was taken from them by Chyavana. The 
gods then considering that they had lost both worlds, in their distress resorted to 
Brahma, and said, 'Since we have been swallowed up in the mouth of Mada, the 
earth has been taken from us by Chyavana, and the heaven by the Kapas.' Brahma 
answered, 'Go speedily, ye gods, with Indra, to the Brahmans for help. After pro- 
pitiating them, ye shall regain both worlds.' They did so and the Brahmans, after 
ascertaining that the gods would themselves deal with those of their enemies 
who were on earth, began a ceremony for the destruction of the Kapas. The Kapas 
upon this sent a messenger to the Brahmans, to say that they themselves were all, 
like them, skilled in the Vedas, learned, and offerers of sacrifice. . . . How then 
should the Brahmans be able to conquer them? It would be more for their interest 
to desist from the attempt. The Brahmans, however, would not be persuaded ; and 
when in consequence, the Kapas assailed them, they hurled forth fires by which the 
Kapas were destroyed. 

"Hearing all these testimonies . . . Arjuna at length gave in, saying: 'I live 
altogether and always for the sake of Brahmans. I am devoted to the Brahmans, 
and do obeisance to them continually. And it is through the favor of Dattattreya 
[a Brahman] that I have attained all this power and high renown, and that I have 
practiced righteousness. Thou hast declared to me truly all the acts of the Brahmans. 

The Origin of Caste 1 1 1 

They employed extended allegories such as the celebrated Para- 
surama myth, wherein the great Rishi destroyed all the Kshatriya men 
and, but for the benevolence of Brahmans in siring the offspring of the 
Kshatriya women, the whole Kshatriya caste would have gone out of 
existence ;^^ or chey used cryptic little invidious assertions such as: " 'A 
Brahman is higher than a Kshatriya,' Varuna said" f^ or hedged them- 
selves about with mystery, such as the elaborate proof, in the Aitareya 
Brahmana, that the king must not drink the soma, a prerogative of 
Brahmans only.^^ By patient persistence, disdain for the sword, and a 
dispersed army of religio-political propagandists, then, the priests of 
India accomplished what their fellow workers in other parts of the 
world frequently attempted but usually failed to realize. 

Brahmans, the Keepers of Knowledge 

Almost always the priests of a society tend to become the oracles of 
the people, and Hindu society is not an exception. In fact, Hinduism 
offers a classic example of this. Brahmans were probably the most 
learned priesthood of the ancient world. There may be some question 
about the social value of their learning, but, so far as volume of literary 
production and zeal for conserving it are concerned, they were unsur- 
passed. One is amazed when one considers the great quantity of matter 
held in the minds of these men and transmitted precisely from genera- 
tion to generation. 

There were evidently no written books in ancient India. Instead of 
libraries, the memories of the learned priests were "the repositories of 
literature,"®** while orally transmitted knowledge was the only means of 
bestowing this heritage. In regard to this Professor Maurice Winternitz 
writes : 

Even today, the whole of the literary and scientific intercourse in India 
is based upon the spoken word. Not out of manuscripts or books does one 
learn the texts, but from the mouth of the teacher, today as thousands of 
years ago. ... If all the manuscripts in print were to be lost, that would 
by no means cause the disappearance of Indian literature from the face 

and I have listened intently.' Vayu then said to him: 'Protect the Brahmans, ful- 
filling a Kshatriya's function; and restrain your senses!' " Thus the Brahmans won 
another battle. See John Muir, op. cit.. Vol. I, pp. 463-73. Another famous legend 
is that of Vasishtha and Visvametra, which represents the complete victory of 
Brahmans over the Kshatriyas. Ibid., pp. 296-426. 

®^See R. C. Dutt, The Epics and Lays of Ancient India, Vol. I, p. 153. 
Mahabharata, Adi Pava, I. 104. 5-7; and Muir, op. cit.. Vol. I, Sec. XVIII. 

^'^Harvard Oriental Series, Vol. 25, Rig- Veda Brahmanas, p. 303. 

''Ibid., p. 29flF. 

*®A. A. Macdonell, India's Past, p. 52. 

112 Caste, Class, and Race 

of the earth, for a great portion of it could be recalled out of the memory 
of the scholars and reciters.^'' 

It is true that the Brahmans had a monopoly on learning; in one 
sense, however, it was a natural monopoly. After the literature had 
accumulated to such large quantities it became necessary for the indi- 
vidual to devote virtually his whole life to committing it to memory. He 
had to start as a child, and the unfailing interest of schooled parents 
became the best means of leading him into the arduous tradition. 
Hence the transmission of the sacred knowledge from father to son, and 
consequently a hereditary priesthood, became natural. But the priests 
capitalized this normal situation and ruled out the possibility of any 
outsiders entering the field. 

Whatever material emoluments accrued to their office were reserved 
to themselves and their children. Indeed, even when writing became 
available, they were loath to transmit their knowledge by manuscripts. 
Says Winternitz: 

It was to the interest of priests . . . that the sacred texts which they 
taught in their schools, should not be committed to writing. By this means 
they kept a very lucrative monopoly firmly in their hands. He who wished 
to learn something, had to come to them and reward them richly; and 
they had it in their power to withhold their texts from those circles whom 
they wished to exclude from sacred knowledge. °** 

Although the three twice-born castes had the privilege of studying 
the Vedas, the sacred law ruled that only the Brahmans should teach 
them.**^ It is clear that this arrangement not only insured the authority 
of Brahmans but also provided a sufficiently large number of students 
for their schools. Brahmans, then, became the sages of the land, and we 
can see how, especially in times of social unrest which ordinarily indi- 

®M History of Indian Literature, trans, by S. V. Ketkar, op. cit.. Vol. I, p. 34; 
see also Albert Schweitzer, op. cit., pp. 33—34. 

""Op. cit., p. 35. Attempts to keep the sources of religious knowledge out of reach 
of the people are, of course, well known in Western society. The violent resistance 
of the Roman Catholic Church to the translation of the Bible is the classic in- 
stance. But Brahmans had such incontestable control over the minds of, Hindus that 
even when the sacred compositions were written they were able to keep them out 
of the hands of laymen. Thus the Abbe Dubois remarks that it is so much to their 
interest to maintain a monopoly on the material that "the Brahmans have in- 
culcated the absurd theory, which is implicitly believed, that should anybody of 
any other caste be so highly impudent as even to read the title page, his head 
would immediately split in two. The very few Brahmans who are able to read 
these sacred books in the original do so only in secret and in a whisper. Expulsion 
from caste, without the slightest hope of re-entering it, would be the lightest punish- 
ment for a Brahman who exposed these books to the eyes of the profane." Abbe 
Dubois, op. cit., p. 172. 

*"Manu, II, 172 passim. 

The Origin of Caste 113 

cated the displeasure of the gods, they whittled away the pretensions of 
the Kshatriyas. 

Dominant Factors in Caste Development 

In this section we shall consider what seem to be determining factors 
in the rise of the caste system. The hypothesis is roughly this : that the 
caste order arose not in a conflict situation between Aryans and 
Dravidians, nor was it motivated from the lower social rungs of society, 
but rather it had its incipience in rivalry between Brahmans and 
Kshatriyas for primacy in the social order. Since, however, it has been 
repeatedly shown that the priests were the social aggressors and that 
they finally emerged victorious, it seems advisable to approach the 
subject from their point of view. Moreover, as we have attempted to 
show above, the caste system is under the paramount influence of 
Brahmans; we have no data indicating that it has ever been dominated 
by "Aryans." We might reiterate also that the idea of an Aryan and 
a Dravidian caste standing in opposition to each other is entirely with- 
out historical support. 

Almost to the exclusion of all others in the early literature, we come 
upon two groups, the Kshatriyas and the Brahmans. And concerning 
them two facts seem to stand out: the one that Brahmans were not 
initially organized into a closed corporation with priestly functions en- 
tirely for themselves; and the other that, although their position was 
highly esteemed, they were amenable to the will of royalty, the early 
ruling class. We do not imply, of course, that the priesthood was not 
hereditary. In that period we should expect not only priestcraft but also 
all other occupations calling for some degree of skill to be jealously 
guarded and transmitted as a heritage from father to son. Our meaning 
is rather that it is only gradually that rigid occupational exclusiveness 

Persons of both the military and the artisan classes performed all the 
Vedic rites. "Any such person, therefore, and consequently a person not 
a Brahman might . . . have been called, though no doubt figuratively, 
a priest."^' There was a priesthood, a hereditary priesthood, but the 
functions of the priest were not completely monopolized. During the 
years, however, the religious literature was augmented and the sacrifice 
increased in complexity and importance; therefore, of necessity the 
priesthood became more and more specialized."^ 

"John Muir, op. cit., p. 245. To the same effect see also pp. 265ff. 
""The state of complexity which the sacrifice had reached is indicated by the fol- 
lowing statement by A. A. Macdonell: "Of the sacrifical priests there were several, 

114 Caste, Class, and Race 

Concomitant with this development, Brahmans increased their grasp 
upon pubhc opinion. They demonstrated their indispensabihty in the 
social order by taking complete control of the sacrifice. Endogamy and 
ascendancy over the Kshatriyas were all that were necessary to give 
momentum to the system. Endogamy, like other tendencies, developed 
gradually; we should expect the feeling for it to have increased with 
emphasis upon distinctiveness. It was the means by which functional 
groups protected their heritage. 

While the struggle for position was in process, the masses of the 
people — Aryan, Dravidian, and their mixed offspring without distinc- 
tion — looked on and listened. That they had to be reckoned with is 
illustrated by the following story of a theological argument between a 
group of Brahmans and King Janaka : 

The Brahmans said among themselves, "This Rajanya has surpassed 
us in speaking; come, let us invite him to a theological discussion." 
Yajnavalkya, however, interposed, "We are Brahmans, and he a Rajanya; 
if we overcome him, we shall ask ourselves, whom have we overcome? 
but if he overcome us, men will say to us, a Rajanya has overcome Brah- 
mans. Do not follow this course."^* 

An indication of the involvement of the people is also brought out by 
a verse from the Mahabharata expressing the concern, "From the dis- 
sensions of Brahmans and Kshatriyas the people incur intolerable suf- 
fering."^^ However, the priests never failed to see the value of co- 
operation with the military class; and it is evidently in this situation 
that the pattern of antagonistic co-operation among castes was nur- 
tured for the system. Says Hopkins, "The priestly and knightly castes 
were always together, for ill or good. . . . They fought bitterly, and 
learned each other's strength. They became friendly, and joined on the 
basis of mutual advantage, and from that time on were as one, above 
the lower order."^*' 

with definite functions and technical names, the chief being the Hotr or 'invoker,' 
the Udgatr or 'chanter,' the Adhvaryr or officiating 'sacrificer,' and the Brahman 
or superintending priest; in the period of the Rigveda, the Hotr was the most im- 
portant; later the Brahman became so. The Purohita was probably not any one 
of these, though he might be employed to perform the functions of one of them." 
"Vedic Religion," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 

"*From the Satapatha Brahmana, quoted by Muir, Vol. I, p. 428. 

■^Santiparvan, 2802, ibid., p. 129. See also Macdonell and Keith, Vedic Index, 
Vol. I, p. 204. 

**Edward W. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 76. The Brahmans insisted that no king should 
be acceptable to the people if he did not maintain a purohita, or Brahman adviser. 
"The gods do not eat the food offered by a king who has no purohita. Wherefore 
even when not about to sacrifice, the king should put forward a Brahman as his 
domestic priest." Aitareya Brahmana, VHI, 24, 27, quoted in John Muir, op. cit., 
P- 367- 

The Origin of Caste 115 

The Brahmans did not seek to gather the Vaisyas, the supposedly 
Aryan-race people, to themselves. Had a racial sentiment existed, we 
should have expected this. But they left them to guard their own status, 
so that "in the course of time the Vaisya fell more and more in position" 
until they were frequently on a social parity with the Sudras."' Not- 
withstanding this, the Vaisyas did not permit themselves to be degraded 
in a body. They, too, with the blessing of Brahmans, organized about 
the hereditary interest which occupation providcd,^^ and imitated the 
exclusiveness of the upper castes. Indeed, as Nesfield remarks, "the 
principle of caste arrogance, once set in motion by the most influential 
class in the community, has been extended downwards from the Brah- 
man to those immediately next him in rank, till it has at last taken pos- 
session even of those inferior and backward classes which had no 
privileges or functions that are worth defending.""^ 

It may be well to observe that the purpose of the Brahmans was not 
to dominate the people by force; they wanted rather to obligate pater- 
nally the society to them for all time. For instance, after monopolizing 
the teaching of the Vedas, they set out forthwith to advertise this func- 
tion as infinitely more important than that of any other group of men. 
Says Manu, "Of him who gives natural birth and him who gives the 
knowledge of the Veda, the giver of the Veda is the more venerable 
father. . . . That Brahman who is the giver of the birth for the sake of 
the Veda and the teacher of the prescribed duties becomes the father 
of an aged man, even though he himself be a child. "'°° Therefore, even 
Kshatriyas, who could not teach the Vedas, must respect Brahmans 
even as a child holds its parents in reverence. Once this natural ruling 
class accepted such a pretention, the rest of the lay society followed suit 
as a matter of course. 

The priests did not end with rivalry among mere men; they went 
beyond the earth to achieve superiority to the gods themselves. If noth- 
ing else did, this was calculated to overawe the earthly princes. Dubois 
refers to a popular Sanskrit verse which illustrates the cogency of their 
logic. "The universe is under the power of the gods; the gods are under 

""Macdonell and Keith, op. cit., p. 256. 

"^Writing in the latter part of the last century, John Nesfield observed: "In more 
than nine-tenths of the industries of India at the present day, oral transmission, 
through the example and teaching given by the father, is the sole means, both 
among Hindus and Muhammadans, by which a boy can acquire his father's craft, 
and this is no doubt one reason for the hold which caste has had on the people of 
this country through all the vicissitudes of creeds." Op. cit., p. 95. 

""John C. Nesfield, op. cit., p. loi. See also William Crooke, op. cit., p. 65; H. 
G. Rowlinson, India, A Short Cultural History, p. 25. 

'""II, 146, 150. See also IV, 233. 

ii6 Caste, Class, and Race 

the power of mantrams [incantations], the mantrams are under the 
power of Brahmans; therefore the Brahmans are our gods."^°^ Again 
they proclaimed in the great Epic : "The world cannot be ruled in op- 
position to Brahmans; for the mighty Brahmans are the deities even 
of the gods. If thou desire to possess the sea-girt earth, honor them con- 
tinually with gifts and with service."^"^ 

With this achievement, it became necessary to develop a philosophy 
of the social order which would give to other men some self-respect re- 
gardless of their function. Hence we have the paradoxical doctrine 
that some social functions are superior to and purer than others, but 
that the greatest blessing which could come to man is inspired by the 
performance of his hereditary duty without murmur or envy of another. 
This gave the stronger groups of men in society both security and some 
degree of respect from lower groups, which the former found accept- 
able in exchange for their right to question the pretentions of Brah- 

Gradually, then, the caste system became orderly and stabilized, with 
priests giving a religious interpretation to all questions of moment. 
Brahmans were never centrally organized, and so, too, the caste system 
has remained decentralized, for it is built about priests. Brahmans con- 
stitute the only indispensable caste in the system. 

Perhaps the age of the priest-kings in ancient Egypt provides the best 
analogy to the Brahman-Kshatriya struggle for power; however, a caste 
system did not emerge in Egypt. In Egypt, the contest developed mainly 
between the chief priest of the sun-god, Amon, and the king. With the 
decline in power and heroism of the Pharaohs of the Nineteenth 
Dynasty, the prestige of the high priest of the temple of Amon at Thebes 
became magnified. The high priest, through many crafty devices, 
sapped the dwindling power of the decadent Ramesside Pharaohs until 
"in the reign of the last Ramses the crown passed from the head of the 
Pharaoh to that of the chief priest of Amon."^°^ Thus, in about the 
year i loo B.C. the high priest made himself king and thereupon began 
a long rivalry between a succession of high priests and more or less weak 
Pharaohs for the rulership of Egypt. ^°* 

But the difference between the Egyptian situation and that in Vedic 
India is significant. In Egypt the high priesthood, a single office, became 
hereditary; in India, on the other hand, it was the entire priesthood 

^"'Op. cit., p. 139. 

^'"The Mahabharata, Anusasanap, 2160, quoted in John Muir, op. cit., p. 130. 

^"^The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. II, p. 209. 

^"^Ibid., Vols. II, III, pp. 164-210 and 251-88, respectively. 

The Origin of Caste 117 

which became hereditary. In Egypt the high priest sought to become 
the king; in India the Brahmans never usurped the functions of the 
Kshatriyas. The Brahmans willingly left the occupation of government 
to the Kshatriyas, but they claimed exclusive right to the duties of the 
priesthood and, in addition, pre-eminence for those duties. In other 
words, instead of seeking to elevate the function of the priesthood above 
that of the military rulers, the high priest of Egypt envied that function 
and sought to usurp it. The result was frequently a mixture of function 
with at least tacit admission of the inferiority of the priesthood. The 
Brahmans, on the contrary, kept the function of the priesthood as a 
whole separate and exclusive, and finally dignified it beyond that of the 
nobility. It is in this exclusiveness of group function that we recognize 
some basic trait of the caste system. 

Later Caste Formation 

It is necessary to distinguish between discussions concerning the 
origin of the caste system and those which seek to explain the means by 
which "a caste" is constituted. The system, once in motion, develops 
into an assimilating force whose action upon attracted groups tends to 
be determined by the latter's previous vocations. In the end they all 
become castes with some cultural variations which mark them for caste 
distinctions. It may be well to say again that, of all factors influencing 
the entrance of groups into the caste system, color or race is not one. 
Indeed, the very ways by which entrance is achieved negate the possi- 
bility that race plays a significant role. 

New converts to the caste system come mainly from the tribes on the 
periphery of the culture. In entering the caste system a tribe disinte- 
grates gradually along functional lines and ordinarily contributes its 
members along the gamut of the status system. Thus the priests of the 
tribe become Brahmans, those who are able to acquire "territorial 
sway" become members of the Chattri caste, the tribal artisans go into 
the castes of their specialty, while the dross of the tribe become the 
sweepers, burners of corpses, or "executioners of the living," repulsive 
eaters of dogs and carrion. ^""^ 

Although we are not now discussing specifically the beginnings of 
the caste system, it may be significant to observe that this explanation 
of caste formation serves to refute the popular pure-blood theory of the 
origin of caste. It holds that the system arose as a prophylaxis against 

^"^See "Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics; M. A. Sherring, Hindu 
Tribes and Castes, Vol. II, p. Ixviij John G. Nesfield, op. cit., pp. 17-18, 106. 

ii8 Caste, Class, and Race 

the incursion of dark-colored tribes surrounding the Aryans. But so far 
as we know, persons of high status in the Dasyu tribes always had high 
status in the caste system/"^ Even from Rig-Vedic times Brahman 
rishis associated with or went into the service of the Dravidian 

New castes may also be formed by groups separating from the 
parent body and migrating to areas out of range of normal communica- 
tion, or by occupational changes within the caste, by religious schisms, 
by fragments from other castes grouping about some common ob- 
jective, by the offspring of crossings between two or more castes, by 
sects, and so on. When the caste is established it will ordinarily claim 
specialty in some vocation, and it will claim distinction on the basis of 
some fictitious or real cultural heritage, which it will guard jealously.^"* 

^•"So far as culture is concerned, it is believed that the Dravidians were more 
advanced than the Aryans. According to H. J. Fleure: "There was in India at 
the time of the Aryan invasions a Dravidian civilization of a more elaborate and 
developed character than the civilization, if civilization it can be called, of the 
Aryans." The Dravidian Element in Indian Culture, p. 80. See also "Indian 
Question," Encyclopedia' of the Social Sciences. 

^•"Ralph T. H. Griffith, op. cit. Rig- Veda, VIII, 32, 46. 

^"^See H. H. Risley, op. cit., pp. 75-79; Emile Senart, op. cit., pp. 16, 78; G. S. 
Ghurye, op. cit., pp. 28-38; "Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics; John 
C. Nesfield, op. cit., p. 109. 

Part Two 




JL amine and compare certain commoner systems of social stratifica- 
tion, social status, and social division. These are estates, social classes, 
political classes, ethnics, and their interrelations. The literature on this 
subject is not very considerable in quantity. In fact, these important 
means of channeling currents of social behavior have been given rela- 
tively scant attention by sociologists. Attempts have been made, mainly 
among European scholars, to distinguish between the social function- 
ing of estates and classes;^ but these analyses for the most part have 
been insufficiently detailed and clear. Professor Pitirim Sorokin reports 
a collection of thirty-two "forms" of definitions of "social class";" and 
Charles Hunt Page has combed the materials for the statements on 
social class by six leading American sociologists.^ However, a convinc- 
ing theory of "class" relations is still not generally available. 

In this study we shall attempt to describe briefly the nature and 
development of estates particularly in medieval Europe and essay to 

^See especially the German writers, Othmar Spann, "Klasse und Stand,'' Hand- 
worterbuch Der Staatswissenschaften, Vol. 5, and authors there reviewed; Werner 
Sombart, "Stande und Klassen," Der Moderne Kapitalismus, II, 2; Max Weber, 
Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft ; "Stande und Klassen," Vol. I, pp. 177-80; also 
"Klasse, Stand, Parteien," Vol. II, pp. 631-40, and passim; and Hans Freyer, 
Einleitung in die Soziologie, "Standegesellschaft, Klassengesellschaft," pp. i37ff. 

'^Contemporary Sociological Theories, p. 543, note. See also Pitirim Sorokin and 
Carle C. Zimmerman, Principles of Rural-Urban Sociology, p. 60, for a typolog>' of 
definitions of class by various authors. 

Charles Hunt Page, Class and American Sociology. The sociologists are Lester F. 
Ward, William G. Sumner, Albion W. Small, Franklyn H. Giddings, Charles H. 
Cooley, and Edward A. Ross. For recent discussions, see C. H. Cooley, R. C. 
Angell, and L. J. Carr, Introductory Sociology, Chaps. 20-21; E. A. Ross, 
Principles of Sociology, Pt. VI, passim; Kimball Young, An Introductory Sociology, 
Chap. XXIV. The studies of the Yankee City Series headed by W. Lloyd Warner 
arc most elaborate. 

122 Caste, Class, and Race 

show their relationship to social classes. The "political class" shall be 
considered as a distinct social phenomenon, while the term "ethnic" 
shall be relied upon for wider serviceability as a social concept in the 
analysis of race relations. 

8. Estates 

the German and etat in the French, has a variety of meanings. It 
may be correctly employed to mean status, degree of rank, position in 
the world, state, public, property, profession, social class, and so on. But 
the meaning with which we shall be concerned is that of a social order 
or stratum of society, and we shall mean by an estate system a society 
divided into estates. 

From a political point of view, an estate may be thought of as one of 
the orders of a body politic, having expressed or implied legal claim to 
some degree of importance in the government. From the point of view 
of social structure, an estate may be thought of as one of the generally 
recognized social divisions of society, standing in relation to other 
divisions as socially superior or inferior. In other words, in any society 
a number of persons forming a social-status stratum more or less clearly 
delimited from other strata in customary or statutory law constitutes a 
social estate. But for an understanding of an estate society, definitions 
can serve only a very limited purpose; more detailed characteristics 
must be looked into. 

Estates as Social Structure 

An economic order based mainly upon agricultural production pro- 
vides the ideal foundation of an estate social system. Where land is the 
basic economic resource and where it may be held by individuals as 
transmissible property, social status ordinarily correlates directly with 
the extent of landownership. The individual ordinarily has power and 
prestige according to his hereditary relationship to the land, and his 
relationship to the land determines his social estate. In Western society, 

124 Caste y Class, and Race 

feudalism, and indeed feudalism wherever it is found, represents this 
form^ of estate society. 

In this discussion, therefore, we shall direct our attention to the 
feudal system in Europe, and our purpose shall be to sense, so to speak, 
the nature of social estates. Ordinarily, feudalism has been dated from 
the ninth to the fourteenth centuries — from approximately the 
"breakup" of the Carolingian Empire to the start of the Renaissance.^ 
Feudalism, however, did not begin and end in all European countries 
at the same time ; neither did all aspects of its rise and decline, in differ- 
ent countries, occur at the same rate and time. In the England of 
Henry VII, in the France of Louis XIV, in the Germanies of Frederick 
the Great, or in the Russia of Alexander II feudalism, or certain signifi- 
cant aspects of it, was very much alive. Moreover, in our attempt to 
gain some insight into the nature of estates, we are interested not so 
much in a period of European history as in a social system. It may be 
possible to learn a good deal about that system during its struggles for 
survival. When a social system is at the height of its stability its signifi- 
cant social traits are ordinarily taken for granted ; some of them begin 
to appear in discussion only when the system begins to decline. "From 
the thirteenth century onwards feudal law continued to be appealed 
to and feudal principles were sometimes formulated even more sharply 
than before, but the modern State was beginning to assert itself . . . 
and its influence began to modify the fundamental conceptions of 

In this discussion of feudalism we do not pretend to submit original 
historical material. The data are limited and probably much still re- 
mains to be uncovered by historians of the period. Notwithstanding 
this, however, we shall hope to present a fairly clear idea of the socio- 
logical concept of social estates. 

A feudal system may be characterized as a society living on "frozen 
capital" ; its status structure is consequently static. In this connection 
Sombart distinguishes between capitalistic and precapitalistic economic 

^Pastoral communities also ordinarily developed estate systems. Among the early 
Germanic tribes, whose wealth consisted mainly of cattle, four recognized status 
groups emerged: nobles, ingenui, liberati, and servi. A contemporary writer, 
Rudolph von Ems, says: "It is by law established that no order shall in contracting 
marriage remove the landmarks of its own lot; but noble must marry noble; free- 
man freewoman, freedman freedwoman, serf handmaid. If any take a wife of 
different or higher rank than his own, he has to expiate the act wdth his life." 
Quoted by William Stubbs, The Constitutional History of England, Vol. I, p. 46. 
See also pp. 21-24. 

^Cf. The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. I, Chap. I. 

''Ibid., Vol. ill, p. 458. 

Estates 125 

organization. In the Middle Ages, he says, "the norm of wants was that 
of the social class, and was fixed by tradition. Consequently, the idea 
of a sufficiency of existence slowly became permanent in all pre-capitalr 
istic economic legislation and organization."* On the land-status re- 
lationship of the Middle Ages, Henri Pirenne concludes : 

From every point of view, Western Europe from the ninth century 
onwards, appears in the light of an essentially rural society. . . . The 
merchant class had disappeared. A man's condition was now determined 
by his relation to the land, which was owned by a minority of lay and 
ecclesiastical proprietors, below whom a multitude of tenants were dis- 
tributed within the framework of the great estates. To possess land was at 
the same time to possess freedom and power ... to be deprived of it, was 
to be reduced to serfdom. . . .^ 

"Tenancy," then, in some form constituted the material counterpart 
of status. According to Petit-Dutaillis and Lefebvre, social relations in 
England rested upon a principle of tenure "which was applied to almost 
the whole of the population from the king, from whom every tenure 
depended mediately or immediately, down to the humblest serf culti- 
vating the land of his lord. There was not an inch of English soil which 
was not subjected to this formula . . . being either tenens in capite or 
separated from the king by more or less numerous intermediaries."^ 

As social structure the number of social estates may not only vary 
from society to society but also, depending on the political fate of the 
community, their relationship may change.^ In any society the number 
of estates tends to be few — seldom if ever more than twelve and usually 
only three or four. Among an early Prankish tribe, the Merovingians, 
there may be recognized six status groups sharply differentiated in the 

^Werner Sombart, The Quintessence of Capitalism, trans, by M. Epstein. See 
also Frederick L. Nussbaum, A History of the Economic Institutions of Modern 
Europe, New York, 1933, pp. 17-28. 

^Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe, trans, by I. E. Clegg, p. 12. 

'Ch. Petit-Dutaillis and Georges Lefebvre, Studies and Notes Supplementary to 
Stubbs' Constitutional History, p. 55. 

"In the form which feudalism had reached at the Norman Conquest, it may 
be described as a complete organization of society through the medium of land 
tenure, in which from the king down to the lowest landowner all are bound together 
by obligation of service and defence: the lord to protect his vassal, the vassal to 
do service to his lord ; the defence and service being based on and regulated by the 
nature and extent of the land held by the one of the other. ... In states in which 
feudal government has reached its utmost growth, the political, financial, judicial, 
every branch of public administration is regulated by the same conditions. The 
central authority is a mere shadow of a name." William Stubbs, op. cit., Vol. I, 
p. 274. 

''Cf. W. K. Ferguson and G. Bruun, A Survey of European Civilization, pp. 

126 Caste, Class, and Race 

law: clergy, nobles, townsmen, coloni, serfs, and slaves.^ In medieval 
society three estates have been commonly recognized. James Westfall 
Thompson says: 

Medieval society was divided into three strata: clergy, nobility, and 
servile peasantry . . . the first two were ecclesiastically or politically the 
ruling class, socially an aristocracy and economically the wealthy classes 
in medieval society. These distinctions obtained both in social theory and 
in law. Each of these classes constituted an "estate," whose status was 
recognized and defended.^ 

But it should not be assumed that these three estates were socially 
homogeneous. Among the "peasants" there were usually some slaves 
employed as household domestics, praedial serfs bound to their tenures, 
serfs not indefinitely bound to the land, villeins who had undertaken 
to work a servile tenure, free villeins working lands on a share basis, 
and free peasantry.^" Furthermore, there were smaller and larger land- 
holders among the nobility, while the upper and lower clergy were dis- 
tinguished in the law. 

The three estates of the realm [says Stubbs, referring especially to 
England] were thus divided, but not without subordinate distinctions, cross 
divisions, and a large residue that lay outside the political body. In the 
estate of baronage were included most of the prelates, who also had their 
place in the estate of clergy. . . . Many lines of distinction which separated 
the baron from the knight, such as relief and other matters of taxation, 
might have been made to separate the earls from the barons; but these 
points became more prominent as the ranks of the lords are marked out 
by new titles, duke, marquess, viscount.^^ 

With the rise of towns the burgesses achieved a recognized status for 
themselves, and in many European countries they formed an estate of 
their own. By the thirteenth century it had already become common 
"to speak of peasants, burghers, knights, and clergy as separate es- 
tates."^" In time this estate, the most significant element in what was 
referred to in England as the Commons, and in France as le tiers etat, 
insinuated its ideology into that of all the other estates. 

An estate system, then, represents a hierarchy of social groups more 
or less individually distinguishable both in law and in custom. In con- 

*See James Westfall Thompson, The Middle Ages, Vol. I, p. 190. 

"Ibid., p. 721. The author continues to say that "slavery did not disappear wholly 
in the Middle Ages, but it largely fused with praedial serfdom." P. 722. 

'"Ibid., pp. 727-28. 

"William Stubbs, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 201. See also Henri See, Modern Capitalism, 
trans, by Homer B. Vanderblue and George F. Doriot, p. 172. 

'^See W. H. Bruford, Germany in the Eighteenth Century, p. 47. 

Estates 127 

sidering the social antecedents of eighteenth-century Germany, W. H. 
Bruford observes : 

In each state big or small, there was a similar pyramid of social groups 
rising tier on tier to the ruler. At the base in each was the peasantry, not 
an undifferentiated mass . . . but relatively homogeneous. At the apex 
was the aristocracy, graded from prince down to the single country gentle- 
man. ... In between came the middle class of town-dwellers again with 
many subdivisions overlapping both nobility (in its patricians and higher 
officials) and peasantry (in its semi-agricultural tradesmen). . . }^ 

Although estates are distinguishable they are functionally co-opera- 
tive. Their separateness tends to be determined by the type of economic 
interest common to each. We shall now attempt to examine some of 
these interests and consequent organization. 

Estate Organization 

Since estates are co-operative, functional, social-status entities, they 
ordinarily develop only so much organization as would permit them 
to exploit their position in society most effectively; indeed, the lower 
estates may even find an absence of organization most effective. The 
following is a brief description of the organization of some well-recog- 
nized estates. 

I. The Clergy. To the priesthood of any society, organization tends 
to come naturally, for besides performing a necessary function it is 
characteristically institutional. At any rate, in medieval Europe the 
priesthood achieved a remarkable degree of organization, which 
facilitated its acquisition of land, power, and social prestige. \Vith the 
Pope as head, the Church achieved international power frequently 
superior to that of local kings. "In this strictly hierarchial society," 
says Pirenne, "the first place and most important belonged to the 
Church, which possessed at once economic and moral ascendancy. Its 
innumerable estates [lands] were as superior in extent to those of the 
nobility, as it was itself superior to them in learning. . . . From the 
ninth to the eleventh century the whole business of government was in 
fact in the hands of the Church, which was supreme here as in the 

The organization of the priesthood may have indeed shown the way 
to national organization. Its local synods, provincial convocations, and 
national councils were examples of effective government in a liighly 

"Ibid., p. 46. 

"Henri Pirenne, op. cit., p. 13. See also Ephraim Emerton, Medieval Europe, 
814-1300, p. 547. 

128 Caste, Class, and Race 

individuated feudal society. Stubbs describes this organization graphi- 
cally, declaring: 

We may regard the spirituality of England, the clergy or clerical estate, 
as a body completely organized, with a minutely constituted and regulated 
hierarchy, possessing the right of legislating for itself and taxing itself, 
having its recognized assemblies, judicature and executive; and, although 
not a legal corporation holding common property, yet composed of a 
great number of persons, each of whom possesses corporate property by 
a title which is either conferred by ecclesiastical authority, or is not to 
be acquired without ecclesiastical assent. Such an organization entitles 
the clergy to the name of "communitas."^^ 

As an estate, then, the clergy as a whole was well organized, rich, 
learned, and consequently very powerful. But unlike other social 
estates, the clergy constituted a system which did not reproduce itself. 
It was at once the most closely knit group and the most heterogeneous ; 
it had to be continually repopulated from the other estates — -a fact 
which forever precluded the possibility of its achieving the solidarity 
of a caste. Thus, in a peculiar way, the estate of the priesthood belonged 
to every stratum of society, for all men might aspire to its ranks: "The 
great nobles and the king's ministers looked on the bishoprics as a 
provision for their clerical sons. The villein class . . . aspired to holy 
orders as one of the avenues of liberty . . . and every tradesman or 
yeoman might live to see his son promoted to a position of wealth and 
power."^^ Yet, although the least of priests might derive some prestige 
from belonging to an order with which the most powerful families in 
the country were affiliated, there were ranks even legally recognized 
within the clergy. There were great landowners and offices which con- 
stituted "ecclesiastical princedoms" as well as poor stipendaries. Politi- 
cally the baronial priests were usually separated from the ordinary 
clergy. ^^ 

2. The Nobility. The feudal nobility had no such intricate organi- 
zation as the clergy ; at least it was less apparent. But the nobility, being 
the normal ruling class — the warrior class — was rather preoccupied 
with matters of social distance and other methods of maintaining or 
enhancing its prestige. The relationship between noble and noble was 

^^William Stubbs, op. cit.. Vol. Ill, pp. 298-99. 

^"Ibid.j p. 380. See also, for a general discussion of the social position of the 
clergy in France, Henri See, La France economique et social au XVIII" siecle, 
PP- 53ff- 

""Everything that we have said about the rights and duties of feudal princes," 
remarks Ephraim Emerton, "applies with equal truth to the bishops — with one 
very great exception. The lay fief was, from an early day, hereditary ; the ecclesiasti- 
cal fief passed from one hand to another by virtue of an election." Op. cit., pp. 547- 

Estates 129 

more socially competitive than co-operative, while that between noble 
and commoner was exploitive. "Feudalism," says James Westfall 
Thompson, "was based upon an honorable submission of noble to 
noble, and each party to that relation possessed certain definite specific 
rights and privileges. Manorialism, on the other hand, was the relation 
of the noble as a landed proprietor to his servile tenantry. It was a 
relationship of master and servant. There was neither pride of 'aid' 
nor fellowship in it. . . . The services exacted were the hard, compul- 
sory labors of a farm tenantry."^^ 

Ordinarily the medieval noble was a vassal, holding devisable lands, 
called a fief, of some other noble. Thus nobles were bound to each 
other by "ties of vassalage and fidelity" in a sort of gradation of land- 
holding. However, the fact of vassalage did not always imply inferiority, 
for one noble might hold fiefs of many lords, so that in the end he 
might become more powerful than any of them.^^ Although the system 
was regulated by custom and law, continual friction developed be- 
tween noble and noble over conflicting claims. Private war and strife 
were a common means of settlement. "The history of feudalism," says 
Thompson, "is that of constant friction between the rights of lord 
and those of the vassal."'" Although it is true that they had a like in- 
terest in the society, the nobility was never a unified corporate body 
working harmoniously toward some common end."^ 

Notwithstanding internal conflict and ranking, however, the nobility 
represented a distinguished social estate. They kept the commonality 
at a distance so that aspiration to their status was very small. \\^ith 
reference to the later estate relationship in Germany, Bruford writes: 
"The nobility were taught from their childhood to look upon them- 
selves as a class apart. They differed from the middle class in legal 
status, standard of living, social customs and moral code, in their educa- 
tion, their taste in art and literature, in the very language they habitu- 

^^James W. Thompson, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 722. 

"On this point G. G. Coulton observes: "A man's immediate obedience was to 
his landlord. He might have only one landlord, for the royal estates were consider- 
able, and on those estates the peasant owed homage to the king alone. But, on 
the other hand, he might have half a dozen landlords, in various degrees of 
proximity. If his immediate landlord was the lord of the manor, then that squire 
might be the direct tenant of the king; but, on the other hand, this squire might 
hold his lands under some other squire, and he under some other, and he under 
some count or baron or bishop or abbot, so that there were many steps between 
the actual tiller of the soil and the central government. But the man's immediate 
loyalty was due to his immediate landlord ; he might have many lords but he had 
only one liege lord, the man from whom he held directly. Thus came about the 
strange paradox, that the peasant owed closer loyalty to his squire than to his 
king." The Medieval Scene, p. 6. 

^Op. cit., p. 702. 

^See F. M. Powicke, Medieval England, pp. 59, 78. 

130 Caste, Class, and Race 

ally used."^^ The nobility did not eat, sleep, play, sit, or wash together 
with the commonality. They dressed distinctively, often secured sumptu- 
ary laws to limit imitation, and insisted upon an etiquette which em- 
phasized their superiority. 

It was impossible, of course, for the nobility to avoid all intercourse 
with the vulgar, but they made every effort on public occasions to keep 
social inferiors at a distance. In the theater, they sat apart from the com- 
mon man, either in the front seats or in boxes. ... At public concerts too, 
a space was left between the chairs of the quality and the rest. ... In 
the village church the local nobility would, of course, have separate pews 
and a family vault. In the council chamber and in lecture rooms, where 
noble and commoner met for a like purpose, each class was assigned its 
separate benches. Even at the few schools . . . where boys of good birth 
and others were educated together, they wore distinctive epaulettes, dined 
at different tables, slept in separate dormitories and used bathing places 
at the river parted by a raised bank. . . . The nobility considered them- 
selves in fact, with rare exceptions, to be of different race from the un- 
titled mass.^^ 

In fact, the very titles of the nobility served to maintain the prestige 
of their estate. Just as lady once referred to the wife of a lord, so 
Frdulein was the title of a nobleman's daughter. For practically every 
rank of nobility there was some title, while the common people were not 
mistered at all."^ 

But, although the nobility guarded its rights and privileges with con- 
siderable jealousy, it never attained the solidarity of a caste. Even 
though very difficult, individuals of lower estatfes might obtain the 
material or official substance of nobility and finally achieve identifica- 
tion. On the decline of feudalism education became one rough road 
to success- — at least, through the priesthood."^ Unlike a caste, the 

"^W. H. Bruford, op. cit., p. 49. See also, for a discussion of the privileges of the 
nobility, Henri See, op. cit., pp. 75ff. 

"'^Ibid., pp. 57-58. With regard to the German nobility, Bruford continues: 
"They could further distinguish themselves by the use of plumed hats — we hear 
of many a duel on these points between nobleman and commoner at the universities 
- — by putting their servants into livery, displaying coats of arms, using special 
seals, wearing pink dominoes at masquerades, and a thousand and one such trifles." 
P- 54- 

^^See "Titles of Honour," Encyclopedia Britannica. 

"^The registers of the University of Oxford from 1567 to 1622 showed the follow- 
ing classification: 

Sons of Noblemen (Earls, Lords, and Barons) 84 

Sons of Knights 590 

Sons of the Clergy 758 

Sons of Esquires 902 

Sons of Gentlemen 3615 

Sons of Plebeians 6635 

Status not given 758 

See Mildred Campbell, The English Yeoman, p. 271. 

Estates 131 

estate never became responsible for its members and its limits were 
international. According to Stubbs : 

The great barons would probably, at any period, have shown a disin- 
clination to admit new men on terms of equality to their own order, but 
this inclination was overcome by the royal policy of promoting useful 
servants, and the baronage was recruited by lawyers, ministers, and war- 
riors, who in the next generation stood as stiffly on their privileges as their 
companions had ever done. The county knight was always regarded as a 
member of the noble class, and his position was continually strengthened 
by intermarriage with the baronage. The city magnate again formed a 
link between the country squire and the tradesman; and the tradesman 
and the yeoman were in position and in blood close akin. . . . But the 
most certain way to rise was furnished by education. -° 

3. The Common People. Before the rise of towns in western 
Europe the common people were practically confined to the manors. 
That is to say, they lived a comparatively sedentary life in villages 
owned by landlords and they cultivated the adjoining lands on some 
customary agreement for dividing the produce. "Each manor had 
its court, composed of peasants, presided over by the bailiff or villicus, 
and giving judgment according to 'the custom of the manor' . . . 
the traditional usage which, at long inter\'als, the population, consulted 
by the lord, declared and set down in the custumals or Weistiimer."^^ 
The manor, indeed, aimed at self-sufficiency."^ A church was built and 
a priest was nominated by the lord. The cultivators had no market out- 
side of the manor. 

^William Stubbs, op. cit.. Vol. Ill, p. 625. See also, Bruford, op. cit., p. 59. 
Observe, however, the point which De Tocqueville makes: "In the eleventh century 
nobility was beyond all price; in the thirteenth it might be purchased; it was con- 
ferred for the first time in 1270." Democracy in America, Vol. I, p. xiii. 

^Henri Pircnne, op. cit., p. 63. See also James W. Thompson, op. cit., p. 722-23. 
"It is, perhaps, unnecessary to add," says Pirenne, "that the manorial was not 
imposed on all the rural population. It spared a certain number of small free 
proprietors, and in isolated districts we meet with villages which more or less 
escaped its control" Op. cit., p. 59. For a discussion of living conditions of the 
medieval peasant, see G. G. Coulton, The Medieval Village, especially pp. 307fF. 

^*The following is an illustration of the nature of manorial economy: "In some 
manors the dues are arranged to form a complete outfit for the consumption of 
the lord's household, a farm of one night, of a week, of a fortnight, as the case 
may be. The manors of the Abbey of Ramsey were bound to render as a fortnight's 
farm 12 quarters of flour, 2,000 loaves of bread, 24 gallons of beer, 48 gallons of 
malt, 2 scsters of honey, 10 flitches of bacon, 10 rounds of cheese, 19 very best 
sucking pigs, 14 lambs, 14 geese, 120 chickens, 2,000 eggs, 2 tubs butter, 24 
gallons of audit ale. . . . 

"By the help of these accumulated stores, and funds drawn from money rents 
and small leases, the lord keeps a number of servants, and hires some labourers 
for the cultivation of the home farm. . . ." The Cambridge Medieval History, 
Vol. Ill, p. 475. See also James Harvey Robinson, Readings in European History, 
pp. 181-84; ^nd Mary Bateson, Medieval England, pp. 1 16-17. 

132 Caste, Class, and Race 

Ordinarily the inhabitants of a manor looked to the lord for paternal- 
istic advice, much of their private lives being regulated according to 
his wishes. Should they leave the estate, he could apprehend and re- 
turn them. In fact, "they were his men in every sense of the word, and 
it has been justly observed that seigneurial authority rested more on 
the attributes of chieftainship which it conferred on its possessor than 
on his attributes as a landed proprietor. ... In times of war he de- 
fended them against the enemy and sheltered them within the walls 
of his fortress, and it was clearly to his own advantage to do so, since 
he lived by their labor."^^ It should be mentioned parenthetically that 
the manor had none of the significant characteristics of the modem 
village; the modern village is economically intermeshed in a world- 
capitalist economy. 

Although there were some social differentiations, more or less dis- 
tinct, among the peasants, they were the least organized of the social 
estates. Indeed, they had very little to protect by organization. They 
were administered almost entirely from above, while politically they 
were never heard unless through their lords. But as villages developed 
into boroughs, sometimes under the guidance of the lords themselves, 
an avenue of partial escape was opened to the serf. 

4. The Bourgeoisie. "From the point of view of the common 
people of Europe," says Professor Thompson, "the rise of the towns is 
the most important phenomenon of the history of the feudal age. It 
was a political, economic, and social revolution of the first magni- 
tude."^® The medieval town was built from the ground up; the great 
Roman and Grecian cities had perished and their "people disap- 
peared."^^ Hence the new urban institutions were developed virtually 
without precedent to meet the needs of the new urban situations. "The 
new towns may be regarded as markets made permanent."^" But al- 
though this novel way of life gradually wormed its way into the entire 
fabric of medieval society, town population was never very large. Be- 

""Ibid., p. 64. See also, for a good discussion of the manorial system, Harry Elmer 
Barnes, An Economic History of the Western World, Chap. V, and W. K. Ferguson 
and Geoffrey Bruun, op. cit., pp. 309—14. 

""James W. Thompson, op. cit., p. 733. To the same effect see Harry Elmer 
Barnes, op. cit.. Chap. VI, and W. K. Ferguson and G. Bruun, op. cit., Chap. XX. 

"Cf. Jonathan F. Scott, Albert Hyma, and Arthur H. Noyes, Readings in 
Medieval History, pp. 293—96. Some vestiges of Roman cities did remain in Italy, 
Spain, and southern France ; even so, however, their trading functions became con- 
siderably involved with the feudal and religious interests upon which they largely 

°°Friedrich W. E. Keutgen, "Commune," in the Encyclopedia Britannica, iith ed. 

Estates 133 

tween the twelfth and fifteenth centuries probably not more than ten 
per cent of the population was urban.^^ 

Before about the twelfth century, then, there was no effective and 
recognized class of town dwellers. In England "during the Anglo-Saxon 
period, and even in the eleventh century, the word burh had an ex- 
tremely general signification. It does not even exclusively denote a 
town, but is also applied to a fortified house, a manor, a farm sur- 
rounded by walls."^* 

Once under way, however, commercial towns developed rapidly. 
They recruited new population from the farms, and it is Pirenne's 
thesis that the early town people constituted the dross of the country. 
They were marginal persons in an agricultural society. Landless men, 
the younger sons of large tenant families, and "the crowd of vaga- 
bonds who roamed through the country, going from abbey to abbey 
taking their share of alms reserved for the poor," were among the first 
to seek opportunities and fortune in the commercial life of the towns. ^^ 
It was common practice for serfs to run away and hide about the towns 
seeking casual employment with merchants and craftsmen. "The lords 
pursued them and brought them back to their holdings, when they suc- 
ceeded in laying hands on them. But many eluded their search, and as 
the city population increased, it became dangerous to try to seize the 
fugitives under its protection."^® 

Although it is customary to speak of the bourgeoisie or burgesses as 
one of the estates, they finally became a class with social norms fairly 
distinct from those of the agricultural community at the head of which 
was the nobility. The bourgeoisie "formed a privileged class in the 
midst of the rest of the population. "^^ And the privilege was a neces- 
sity usually bought and paid for by the town dwellers. The institutions 
which functioned smoothly in the agricultural environs of the towns 
were found to be totally unsatisfactory in the industrial commercial life 
of the latter. Hence the burgesses sought rights and obtained charters 
which would leave them legally to organize their town in a way that 
facilitated their economic activity. They wanted most of all to be re- 

^See Henri Pirenne, op. cit., p. 59. 

^Ch. Petit-Dutaillis and Georges Lefebvre, op. cit., p. 70. 

^See Henri Pirenne, op. cit., pp. 46—47. 

^Ibid., p. 49. "The territory of the town was as privileged as its inhabitants. It 
was a sanctuary, an 'immunity,' which protected the man who took refuge there 
from exterior authority, as if he had sought sanctuary in a church." Ibid., p. 57. 
See, however, for a discussion of the struggles for emancipation of the early towns 
with the feudal lords: Scott, Hyma, and Noyes, op. cit., pp. 297-303. 

^Henri Pirenne, op. cit., p. 56. 

134 Caste, Class, and Race 

lieved of the restraints of the manor, to be left alone to develop their 
own institutions. They wanted to be free — free to make business agree- 
ments, to own and control property, to buy and sell goods. "Without 
liberty, that is to say, without power to come and go, to do business, to 
sell goods, a power not enjoyed by serfdom, trade would be impos- 
sible."^^" Therefore, among the rights which the lords upon whose estate 
the towns were located sold to the burgesses, the right to be left alone 
was crucial. In order to keep their business private they carefully 
avoided individual tax assessment, preferring to pay a lump sum raised 
by the mayor of the corporation. "Freedom became the legal status of 
the bourgeoisie, so much so that it was no longer a personal privilege 
only, but a territorial one, inherent in urban soil just as serfdom was in 
manorial soil,"^^ At length it became a general rule that the runaway 
serf who lived in the city for a year and a day became thereafter free. 
In discussions of this fact the German proverb, Die Stadtluft macht frei, 
has been frequently cited. 

The organization of the burgesses was, of course, different and sepa- 
rate from that of the other estates. They ordinarily had judicial auton- 
omy with court practices suitable to their practical way of living and 
they developed new systems of administration and taxation. They pro- 
vided their own policing and built the town wall as a defense against 
the thieving knights of the countryside. "The construction of ramparts 
was the first public work undertaken by the towns and one which, down 
to the end of the Middle Ages, was their heaviest financial burden. . . . 
There were no unfortified towns in the Middle Ages."^^ The bour- 
geoisie, then, were well organized and, in a sense, organized against the 

^^Henri Pirenne, Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe, trans, by 
I. E. Clegg, p. 51. 

^Ibid., pp. 51-52. On this point Mrs. J. R. Green says: "In the beginning of 
municipal life the affairs of the borough, great and small, its prosperity, its safety, 
its freedom from crime, the gaiety and variety of its life, the regulation of its 
trade, were the business of the citizens alone. Fenced in by its wall and ditch — 
fenced in yet more effectively by the sense of danger from without, and clinging 
to privileges won by common effort that separated it from the rest of the world — 
the town remained isolated and self-dependent." Town Life in the Fifteenth Cen- 
tury, Vol. I, p. 125. 

^Ibid., p. 54. In this regard Carl Bucher observes: "Every town . . . presup- 
poses the existence of a defensive union which forms the rural settlements lying 
within a greater or narrower radius into a sort of military community with definite 
rights and duties. It devolves upon all the places belonging to this community to 
co-operate in maintaining intact the town fortifications by furnishing workmen 
and horses, and in time of war in defending them with their arms. In return they 
have the right, whenever occasion arises, to shelter themselves, their wives and 
children, their cattle and movables, within its walls. This right is called the right 
of burgess, and he who enjoys it is a burger (burgensis)." Industrial Evolution, 
trans, by S. M. Wickett, p. 116. 

Estates 135 

rest of the rural estates. "Each town formed, so to speak, a Httle state to 
itself, jealous of its prerogatives and hostile to all its neighbors. . . . 
For the burgesses the country population existed to be exploited. Far 
from allowing it to enjoy their franchises, they always obstinately re- 
fused it all share in them."*° 

In the city, the clergy were an estate apart. They did not always 
share in the special privileges of the burgesses, for they had the rights 
of their own estate. ^^ The nobility ordinarily left the city to live in their 
country castles. The medieval town, then, was the home of the bur- 
gesses. "It was in their own interest, and in their own interest alone, 
that they created its institutions and organized its economy. "^^* In 
emphasizing the individuality of these townspeople Pirenne writes: 

The medieval burgess . . . was a different kind of person from all who 
lived outside the town walls. Once outside the gates and the moat, we are 
in a different world, or more exactly, in the domain of another law. The 
acquisition of citizenship brought with it results analogous to those which 
followed when a man was dubbed knight or clerk tonsured, in the sense 
that they conferred a peculiar legal status. Like the clerk or the noble, the 
burgess escaped from the common law; like them, he belonged to a par- 
ticular estate, which was later to be known as the "third estate."*" 

But it must not be supposed that the burgesses constituted a 
homogeneous status group. In fact, the bourgeoisie were an estate of 
aristocratic urban oligarchs. There was a more or less distinct cleavage 
between the upper-class merchants, the small retailers and craftsmen, 
and the laboring class. "The towns welcomed the serfs who drifted 
into them from the rural areas, but only because they increased the 
laboring class within the towns. The serf or the villein met with a cold 
reception if he tried to buy a plot of ground within the town wall. 
. . . Freedom from serfdom did not imply political qualification."^^ 

*°Henri Pirenne, op. cit., p. 57. "The middle class achieved its aims politically 
by transformation from within. Instead of making a direct assertive attack, these 
master-traders usually so developed their own interests within the established institu- 
tions that they gained their object quietly and shrewdly. This class established 
itself against the king and the nobles on the one hand, and against the workers 
on the other. . . . Already in the fifteenth century' the workmen were founding 
fraternities of their own." Edwin Benson, Life in a Medieval City, p. 42. See also 
Gustav SchmoUer, The Mercantile System, pp. 7-8, 11. 

■"See Karl Biicher, Die Bevolkerung von Frankfurt am Main im XIV. und XV, 
Chap. V, passim. 

"^Henri Pirenne, op. cit., p. 171. 

*=Op. cit., pp. 56-57. 

^James W. Thompson, op. cit., p. 738. See also, W. H. Bruford, op. cit., p. 49. 
The ordinary workers of the town "had neither any share in the government, nor 
any rights to rent a stall in the market, nor to own shop or workroom in the town. 
These formed an obscure comoany of workers without records or history. They 

136 Caste, Class, and Race 

Bourgeois freedom was never intended for everybody. Those who had 
become wealthy, even the nouveaux riches, formed themselves into 
a closed patriciate, excluding the manual craft workers and small 

Town politics was in the hands of an upper class. "Throughout 
the whole of western Europe, the haute bourgeoisie had, from the be- 
ginning, monopolized town government.'"*^" However, two organized 
classes in the town were constantly struggling for power: the master 
craftsmen and the merchants. This struggle took on revolutionary, pro- 
portions in the Low Countries and in Italy. Sometimes, as was mostly 
true of English towns, where the merchants were very wealthy but with 
ranks not too rigidly closed, the craft guilds were definitely subor- 
dinated. They were either suppressed by the merchants or incorporated 
and regulated.** Yet in the long run the city provided a new facility 
for social mobility; here it was possible for men in relatively large 
numbers, through their own ingenuity, to acquire the substance of 
upper-class status. We shall again quote William Stubbs, who makes a 
graphic comparison between bourgeois and feudal social mobility — 
indeed, a comparison between a social-class system and an estate 
system : 

There was no such gulf between the rich merchant and the ordinary 
craftsman in the town, as existed between the country knight and the 
yeoman, or between the yeoman and the labourer. In the city it was merely 
a distinction of wealth; and the poorest apprentice might look forward 
to becoming a master of his craft, a member of the livery company, to 
a place in the council and aldermanship, a mayoralty, the right of be- 
coming an esquire for his life, and leaving an honourable coat of arms 
for his children. The yeoman had no such straight road before him; he 
might improve his chances as they came, might lay field to field, might 
send his sons to war or the universities; but for him also the shortest way 
to make one of them a gentleman was to send him to trade; and there 
even the villein might find liberty and a new life that was not hopeless. 
. . . The townsman knew no superior to whose place he might not aspire; 
the yeoman was attached by his ties of hereditary affection to a great 

counted among their number ancient burghers who had fallen into low estate and 
could no longer pay their burgage dues, as well as the poor who had never prospered 
so far as to buy a tenure or citizenship. But they were not all necessarily poor or 
miserable." Mrs. J. R. Green, op. cit.. Vol. I, p. 193. See also Edwin Benson, 
op. cit., p. 33- 

And Pirenne observes further: "The competition which they maintained with 
each other in the labor market allowed the merchants to pay them a very low wage. 
Existing information, of which the earliest dates back to the eleventh century, 
shows them to have been a brutish lower class, uneducated and discontented." 
Medieval Cities, trans, by Frank D. Halsey, p. 160. 

*^*Henri Pirenne, op. cit., p. 201. 

"William Stubbs, op. cit., Vol. Ill, pp. 581, 616. 

Estates 137 

neighbour whose superiority never occurred to him as a thing to be coveted 
or grudged.*® 

During the Middle Ages and for long after, social prestige in Europe 
ranked from the nobility. Even the greatest of the burgesses were not 
fully accepted by the old ruling class. It took the world-shaking bour- 
geois revolution of 1789 in France to challenge the position of the 
nobility. But unless estates are transformed into "political classes" the 
social structure remains self -regulative and harmonious. The burgeoisie 
had wealth, but they were too socially mobile to attain the superb style 
of living of the nobility; hence it became the aspiration of townsmen 
to be included in the nobility. The dominant society was feudal; hence 
fashion had to be set by the ruling feudal class. Wealthy merchants 
either married their daughters to knights, purchased great estates, or 
bought titles of nobility outright. "The Florentine wealthy classes," 
says Sombart, "generally strove to obtain patents of knighthood which 
were coveted so much because they alone enabled the holders to 
participate in tournaments."^" And regarding this same method of 
achieving nobility, W. H. Bruford mentions the large sums of money 
paid into the imperial treasury in Germany for titles of nobility: 
"Joseph II made financiers into noblemen by the dozen; in his time it 
cost in all about 20,000 Gulden to become a count . . . 6,000 to be- 
come a baron . . . and 386 Gulden in fees to be a mere Adliger 
(von)."*^ In England it became common for rich burgesses to inter- 
marry with the knights and gentry; indeed, after the decline in in- 
fluence of the elder baronage and the expansion of industry and trade 
under the Tudors, a sort of ezisy fusion developed between the lower 
nobility and the richer bourgeoisie.^^ Even so, however, the ennobled 
bourgeoisie were called "nobility of the robe" as a final personal dis- 
tinction from those of feudal heritage, the "nobility of the sword." 

Up to about the early eighteenth century, then, estates were recog- 
nizably distinguished, and each sought increasing organization for 
the purpose of exploiting its position. Each was jealous of its status 
and sought exclusiveness from lower estates. Estates did not maintain 
their position merely by inherent, private authority; they claimed, in 
addition, political and legal right. The lower estates, which could not 
obtain the sanctions of formal law, relied upon custom for all that 
it was worth. 

^'Ibid., p. 6i6.- 

"Werner Sombart, op. cit., p. 134. 
*' Germany in the Eighteenth Century, p. 61. 

**See William Stubbs, op. cit., Vol. Ill, pp. 569, 614-15; also Henri Pirenne, 
op. cit., p. 50. 

138 Caste, Class, and Race 

Estate as a Political Concept 

"An assembly of estates," says Stubbs, "is an organized collection 
... of the several orders, states, or conditions of men, who are recog- 
nized as possessing political power."'*^ The king, of course, is not an 
estate ; he is a leader at the head of estates. Thus it is possible to think 
of estates as only those recognized groups of the population that have 
a voice in the government. Obviously this attribute is not dissociated 
from the idea of social status in the community. Power is an attribute 
of social status; and on the theory that the State is the source of all 
power, the status of the group will tend to rise according to its im- 
portance as a factor controlling the machinery of government. 

The great nobles of Europe were powerful individuals before they 
became the first estate of a larger nation. The breakup of the Prankish 
Empire resulted in a number of realms with relatively weak kings and 
strong landholders. These great proprietors armed their retinue not 
only against strong neighbors but frequently against the king. "When 
this condition was reached, the great noble was not merely a grand 
proprietor, he was a local magnate, a petty ruler, exercising in a 
de facto capacity the functions of the government within his patri- 
monies over all the tenantry, coloni, and slaves upon them."®° But as 
kings became stronger and as national wars began to be waged, the 
nobles were increasingly relied upon for financial and personal aid. 
In England after the Conquest, the Norman monarchy established the 
English baronage,^^ and "thus the first and oldest medieval estate" 
emerged. A fraction, and not always the same fraction, of this estate of 
feudal tenants-in-chief, both spiritual and lay, "was summoned by the 
king from time to time to his Councils."^" Politically the baronage was 
the only estate of the realm ; their decision was their own, and only in 
a very indirect way could they be thought of as representing any other 
status group below them.^^ 

From a political point of view, then, only those groups who have a 
voice in the government may be thought of as estates. The second 
great estate to emerge was the clergy. As great landowners, they were 

^"William Stubbs, op. cit.. Vol. II, p. 1 70. 

^James W. Thompson, The Middle Ages, p. 690. See also The Cambridge 
Medieval History, Vol. Ill, pp. 464, 470-71. 

°'See Ch. Petit-Dutaillis and Georges Lefebvre, op. cit., p. 53. 

'^See The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. VII, pp. 6712-73, "Medieval Es- 
tates," by C. H. Mcllwain 

■^Ibid., p. 675. 

Estates 139 

already included with the baronage, but only later did they begin to 
share the burdens and privileges of government as an organized group. 
Other representative groups, such as the knights and burgesses, also 
developed into significant estates. °* In England certain interest groups, 
such as lawyers and merchants, attempted with little success to organize 
themselves into estates in their own right. There were always persons 
or groups who were not included in any political estate.^^ 

During deliberation in council, the assembled estates did not sit 
together, and ordinarily their arrangement showed their social rank. 
"When summoned to parliament, the knights of one county . . . were 
directed to treat with representatives of the other counties. . . . When 
burgesses were summoned, they too deliberated together but apart from 
the other estates and the same was true of the . . . cathedral and the 
parish clergy. . . . Thus, the parliament was really not one body 
. . . but often three, four or five, according as the knights, burgesses, 
cathedral and parish clergy were present or not."^° There were many 
formalities of procedure, such as the type of summons used, which 
served to distinguish the estates. 

Furthermore, estates had legal recognition ; many of their privileges 
and obligations were guaranteed by law. Indeed, it may not be in- 
correct to say, as Max Radin observes, that "to know a person's real 
position, it was first of all necessary to know 'the law by which he 
lived.' "^'^ The principle at the basis of the wergild (man-money) which 
provided a scale of monetary values for the life or limb of men of 
different estates reappeared in some form in all estate relationship."^ 

"Ibid., pp. 676-77, 679. See also E. William Robertson, Scotland under Her 
Early Kings, Vol. I, pp. 292-93. 

^The "fourth estate," the nascent proletariat and peasants, never became a recog- 
nized political force before the French Revolution. 

^The Cambridge Medieval History, loc. cit., p. 680. See also "Estates General," 
The Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, and William Stubbs, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 

"Status," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 
^E. William Robertson, in his Scotland under Her Early Kings, Vol. II, pp. 

275-318," discusses the wergild of diflFerent peoples. The following is that of 

Wessex under the Anglo-Saxon King, Ini or Ine: 

Twelfhyndman 1 200 scillings 

Sixhyndman \ r- « 

Wealh with five hydes 1 ^°° 

Twyhyndman ) „ 

King's Horswealh ' ^°° 

Wealh with a hyde ) „ 

Do Gafolgelda ) ^ ^° 

His son 100 " 

Wealh with half a hyde 80 " 

Free wealh without land 60 " 

Theow j ^o ;; 

140 Caste, Class, and Race 

On this subject Henri See asserts that, "during the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries in France, distinctions between the social classes 
were reinforced by distinctions of a legal or juridical nature."^'' In 
fact, the functional difference of estates necessitated differential treat- 
ment in the law. Distinction was chiefly made in such matters as mili- 
tary service, rates of pay, taxation, rights to office, application of the 
criminal law, opportunity to own property, political representation, 
various hereditary rights to command the services of other persons, 
and so on. 

Philosophy of Estates 

Every social system has its rationale — its way of looking at the world 
and its explanation of things as they are. Unless the society is on the 
brink of great change, the status quo is always right and God is always 
credited with devising the social plan. Medieval society was no ex- 
ception to this. 

The estate system lent itself admirably to the development of or- 
ganismic theories of society. It became easy and satisfying to conceive 
of society as a living organism with each organ or estate performing 
its necessary function as a contribution to the total good.®" The basic 
idea of society thus settled, the function of each estate was assumed to 
constitute part of an inseparable combination. "The nobility were 
ordained to defend all, the clergy were ordained to pray for all, and 
the commons were ordained to provide food for all."®^ The doctrine, 
of course, presumes a settled order; hence there would be no place for 
ambition. God has assigned each man to a given estate with which he 
should be content. The ideal social order was static; the sharper the 

^"Op. cit., p. 170. R. H. Tawney puts it strongly: "The special characteristic 
of the [estate] system in France and Germany had been, in fact, that inequality 
was not primarily economic, but juristic, and that, in spite of disparities of wealth, 
it rested on differences, not merely of income but of legal status. Civil, not to 
mention political, rights were not identical for all men, but graded from class to 
class." Equality, pp. 107-08. 

*°We have mentioned in a preceding chapter the Rig-Vedic theory of the origin 
of the four orders of society from one great body. See also P. Sorokin, Contemporary 
Sociological Theories, pp. 197—200, for a review of early theories; and also Otto 
Gierke, Political Theories of the Middle Ages, trans, by F. W. Maitland, pp. 102-40, 
passim, for a listing of medieval thought on the subject. 

'^Ruth Mohl, The Three Estates in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, p. 316. 
See also James W. Thompson, op. cit., p. 721. 

"As noble service was that of the person in arms and on horseback, so ignoble 
service was every other form of return for the protection afforded by the lord of the 
land. And as, primarily, noble service was that of the unpaid soldier, so, primarily, 
ignoble service was that of the laborer in the soil,' Ephraim Emerton, op. cit., 
p. 511. 

Estates 141 

lines separating the estates and the more satisfied they were, the more 
perfect the social order. In reviewing the literature on estates, Ruth 
Mohl concludes : "All these more or less voluminous twelfth, thirteenth 
and fourteenth century moralists saw fit to preach in terms of class 
society. Most of them classify society in three feudal groups, and agree 
that these three estates, necessary to the world, were ordained by God 
to serve Him and each other."®^ 

Of course, there had to be some explanation of the misery of the 
unfortunate lower estates; and here, too, as is common in Christian 
countries, it was ordinarily attributed to their supposed Hamite curse. 
Moreover, the folly of persons of lower estate attempting to rise was 
emphasized and made obvious, for "an ape wyll ever be an ape, though 
purple garments hyde."*^^ Yet the common people had to be constantly 
sermonized. Robert Crowley, writing in 1550, admonishes them in 
this way : 

For what doste thou; if thou desyr 

To be a lord or a gentleman 

Other than heape on thee God's ire 

And shewe thy selfe no Christian.^* 

But in spite of a static philosophy and indeed a highly static economic 
order, the estates never disintegrated®^ into castes. Such beliefs and 
theories emphasizing "the divine origin of the three classes of society, 
the importance to the state of every class, the obligation resting upon 
each class to do its duty, the desirability of every man's being content 
with his degree, and the folly of trying to change his estate"®" might 
probably seem to identify the estate system of medieval Europe with 
a caste system. Yet many elements of caste were wanting and the 
estates finally evolved in a direction distinctly opposite to caste. Among 
others, two factors were decisive in turning the medieval social order 
away from a caste system: (a) the substance of status in Western 
society was an acquirable tangibility, and (b) the most influential 
order in the system, the priesthood, was celibate. The possession of 
property, especially in land, was not only the basis of political and con- 
stitutional right but also the "badge of social status" ; furthermore, the 

'"'Op. cit, p. 65. 

^Ibid., p. 199, quoting Barnabe Googe, 1563. 

'"The Yeoman's Lesson, quoted by Mildred Campbell, op. cit., p. 43. 

®*We use the term "disintegrate" advisedly, for we mean literally "fall to pieces." 
To be like the caste system, every slightly differing functional group of an estate 
stratum will have had to assume a recognizable status. So far as group status is 
concerned, therefore, the estates would have been atomized. 

'"Mildred Campbell, op. cit., p. 277. 

142 Caste, Class, and Race 

priesthood, naturally, never became hereditary. On this question 
Stubbs concludes: 

Although English society was divided by sharp lines and broad intervals, 
it was not a system of castes either in the stricter or in the looser sense. It 
had much elasticity in practice, and the boundries between the ranks 
were passable. The ceorl who had thriven so well as to have five hides 
of land rose to the rank of a thegn; his wergild became twelve hundred 
shillings; the value of his oath and the penalty of trespass against him 
increased in proportion. . . . Nor was the character of thriving defined: 
It might, so far as the terms of the custom went, be either purchased, or 
acquired by inheritance, or the tenure of important office, or the "receipt 
of royal bounty. The successful merchant might also thrive to thegn-right. 
The thegn himself might rise to the rank, the estimation, and status of an 

In this characterization of estates we have limited our discussion to 
the European situation, principally because data here are more readily 
available. Wherever estates are found, however, we should expect 
them to be similarly characterized. Another value of this selection is 
that out of the European estates came the modem social-class system, 
to which development we shall now address ourselves. 

^'William Stubbs, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 180. 

9. From Estate to Social Class 

the origin of social classes. We shall hope to indicate only some of 
the well-known factors in the change from medieval autarchy to mod- 
ern capitalism. Social-class systems are phenomena peculiar to capital- 
ism ;^ but before giving consideration to this fact, it may be in order to 
derive briefly some meaning of the concept "social class." By a social- 
class system we mean some variant of that social-status order which fol- 
lowed the breakdown and atomization of the European estate system. 
"Social class" should not be confused with "political class," an entirely 
different concept. 

Difference in Economic Organization 

Capitalism developed in the urban communities of Europe,^ and it 
may be called the way of life of the burgesses. Trade, profit, the indis- 
pensability of money, inventiveness, mechanical power, money-making 
as an end in itself, factory manufacture, efficiency, individualism, com- 
petition, bourgeois freedom, utilitarianism, ambition, plutarchy, capital 
accumulation, exploitation, nationalism, humanitarianism, idealism, 
and so on, characterize this way of life.^ Once under way, capitalism is 

4n referring to a social-class system or social-class systems instead of the social- 
class system, we have in mind the difference in the pattern of social-class organiza- 
tion in different countries of Western civilization. 

^There is an immense literature on the rise of capitalism. Our purpose here is 
merely to indicate the continuity of social estates and social classes and not to discuss 
capitalism in all its economic ramifications. 

^Louis M. Hacker suggests the following definition of capitalism: "Capitalism 
is an economic order based on the profit motive : therefore its leading characteristics 
are the private ownership of the means of production, their operation for pecuniary 
gain, their control by private enterprisers, and the use of credit and the wage 
system." The Triumph of American Capitalism, p. i6. 

144 Caste, Class, and Race 

progressive, sometimes in a pathological sense, and naturally it is im^ 
patient of restrictions. We have attempted to show in the preceding 
chapter that medieval society rested upon a land economy ; wants were 
supplied mainly in kind, and production was largely for immediate con- 
sumption. This comparatively stationary economic order and its 
ideology precluded any ideal of "infinite productivity." According to 
Henri See : 

The whole idea of profit, and indeed the possibility of profit, was 
incompatible with the position occupied by the great medieval land- 
owner. Unable to produce for sale owing to the want of a market, he 
had no need to tax his ingenuity in order to wring from his men and his 
land a surplus which would merely be an encumbrance; and as he was 
forced to consume his own produce, he was content to limit his needs.* 

The system entailed work in common, and, in a sense, its institutions 
were communalistic. Since production was largely localized in a num- 
ber of virtually self-sufficient units, money had a very limited use. 
Barter and the direct reciprocation of personal services were sub- 
stitutes for a medium of exchange. "The most essential economic dues, 
those which were paid on the great domains, upon which the social 
equilibrium then rested, escaped it almost entirely. . . . Where, more- 
over, could the villeins themselves have obtained enough money to 
represent the value of their dues, since they sold nothing outside the 
estate?"^ Indeed, this period has been described as the age of "the 
economy of no markets." The monetary system, then, had its develop- 
ment in the exchange economy of the city. 

Before the industrial revolution, capitalism never gained complete 
ascendancy over the "natural economy" based upon land. There were 
great commercial cities, but the agricultural communities were very 
much greater still and they always dominated the society. Gradually, 
however, through moneylending especially, the urban financiers 
brought the landowners into line and finally geared their activities to 
the business practices of the city. We do not know, of course, when 
capitalism originated; some form of commercial capitalism — buying 
and selling rationally for profit — has probably always been known in 

^Modern Capitalism, trans, by Homer B. Vanderblue and George F. Doriot, p. 64. 

^Ibid., p. 106. See also Frances M. Page, The Estates of Crowland Abbey, p. 144. 
Says Henri Pirenne, "Perhaps the most striking character of the feudal state was 
its almost absolute lack of finances. In it, money played no role." Medieval Cities, 
p. 234. For a discussion of the limited use of money on an English manor in the 
late Middle Ages see F. W. Maitland, "The History of a Cambridgeshire Manor," 
The English Historical Review, Vol. IX, 1894, pp. 417-39. 

From Estate to Social Class 145 

market places.® But the capitalism which suffuses the way of life — ^the 
thinking — of entire peoples is a modem phenomenon. It has been said, 
however, that only the machine, with its concomitant technical organi- 
zation, distinguishes modem capitalism from medieval commercial 

At any rate, out of the post-medieval cities of Europe sprang a new 
civilization, a new kind of efficient, rational, individuated people.^ 
Without precedent they worked out the new system, which was destined 
finally to characterize the whole of Western civilization. These builders 
of cities were hardly "financed" by the great landed proprietors. "Most 
of them," says Pirenne, "must have built up their first capital by hiring 
themselves out as sailors, or dockers, or as assistants in merchant 

The Transition 

In the preceding chapter we have, according to common usage, con- 
sidered the bourgeoisie as one of the medieval estates; frequently they 
have been referred to as the "middle class." Strictly speaking, however, 
the bourgeoisie never constituted a social estate of the feudal system; 
consequently they were never a middle class of the estate system. The 
social-status system — the estate system — based upon the landed econ- 
omy of feudal society was never able to assimilate the townsmen. The 

'Cf. Henri Pirenne, Les Periods de I'histoire sociale du capitalisme, p. 5. On the 
origin of capitalism, see Harry Elmer Barnes, op. cit.. Chap. IX, and Frederick 
L. Nussbaum, op. cit., pp. 31—56. 

'See H. M. Robertson, Aspects of the Rise of Economic Individualism, p. 42, 
and Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans, by 
Talcott Parsons, pp. 13-31. 

^"In the town a new world had grown up with an organization and a polity of 
its own wholly different from that of the country. ... Its way of life, its code 
of manners, its habits, aims, and interests, the condition of the people, the local 
theories of trade by which its conduct of business was guided, the popular views 
of citizenship and government" marked and distinguished the town. Mrs. J. R. 
Green, op. cit., pp. 2—3. 

^Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe, p. 166. 

Concerning a somewhat later period Harry Elmer Barnes concludes: ". . . the 
demands of the bourgeoisie for the recognition of the towns as self-governing urban 
communities met with strenuous opposition from those in control. Ecclesiastical 
even more than lay lords were reluctant to surrender their authority. Sometimes 
a peaceful demand was sufficient. At other times violence in the form of costly 
and bloody conflicts turned the trick. Twelve times the burghers of Tours were 
forced to resort to arms. The lesser nobility were cleverly played off against the 
higher nobility, the Church against the lay lords, the royal power against both. 
Sometimes the feudal lords, eager for gain, sold charters of freedom to the com- 
munes. In some regions, in Flanders, for example, the lords shrewdly discerned in 
the communes a source of prosperity for the whole locality, and permitted them 
to develop, granting them many concessions." Op. cit., pp. 60-61. 


Caste, Class, and Race 

bourgeois social order was not only different from the feudal order but 
also antagonistic to it. To be sure, when feudalism was the dominant 
social system, the ideology of the whole society was feudal and the 
nascent capitalists had to be conceived of in terms of this ideology. But 
the bourgeoisie could not accept a stable place in the feudal order; 
therefore, they struggled against it with increasing effectiveness. 

We may attempt to indicate the place of the bourgeoisie in the 
feudal system by a diagram. If we think of this as representing a 
typical feudal-urban societal relationship — say, France at about the 
end of the seventeenth century — then the small pyramid will indicate 
the divergent growth of the bourgeois system upon the old estate 

Hi(jh Bourgeoisie 

Lower Bourgeoisie 
and Artisans 


High Nobility 

Kr)igtts, Esquires, 



Impingement of Social-Class System upon Feudalism 

society. Besides a more or less clearly defined stratification of social 
estates, the urban system, with no well-defined class barriers, developed. 
The estate of the priesthood may be thought of as a slender, truncated 
pyramid extending neither to the top nor to the base of the feudal 
hierarchy but forming the backbone of moral support for the system. 
It has been recognized that the French Revolution represented the 
climax of the struggle for dominance between the rural and the urban 
way of life at that time in Europe — that is to say, the feudal and the 
bourgeois way of life. Says Edmund Burke ruefully: "The whole of the 
power obtained by this revolution will settle in the towns among the 
burghers, and the moneyed directors who lead them. The landed 
gentlemen, the yeoman, and the peasant have, none of them, habits or 
inclinations, or experience, which can lead them to any share in this 

From Estate to Social Class 147 

the sole source of power and influence now left in France."^° And See 
declares that "the effect of the Revolution was to destroy the legal dis- 
tinctions which had divided the social classes and to establish equality 
of rights among all citizens."^^ The revolution removed all intermediary 
political loyalties between the individual and the state/" This, then, was 
the supreme organizational triumph of capitalism: the shattering of 
the social estates and the ascendance of individualism. The estates lost 
their wholeness, and the criteria of social status became diffused. While 
there may still be vestiges of the social estates in some Western coun- 
tries, today the individual in cities especially has no estate ; he belongs 
to a social-class system. 

Ideology of Social-Class System 

The ideology of the social-class society is the system of beliefs and 
social theories which support our present social order. Most of these 
are taken for granted. All our literature, art, textbooks, and "social 
sciences" presume a social-class society. ^^ Even before the revolution, 
French and English writers had developed the essential ideology of 
the modem city dwellers. John Locke and the Encyclopedists particu- 
larly had perfected a new philosophy of bourgeois freedom, the sine qua 
non of bourgeois life ; Frangois Ouesnay and particularly Adam Smith 
had already written its economic theory; scholastics had begun to 

^°The Works of Edmund Burke, Vol. II, "Reflections on the Revolution in 
France," p. 464. 

^^Henri See, op. cit., p. 171. Speaking of the transition in France, R. H. Tawney 
says: ". . . estates disappear in a common and equal citizenship. All men, at least 
in theory, became equal before the law ... all men may enter all occupations. All 
men may buy and sell, trade and invest, as they please. Above all, all men may 
acquire property of all kinds. And property itself changes its nature. The element 
of sovereignty in it — such, at least, is the intention — vanishes. What remains is the 
right of exclusive disposal over marketable commodities." Op. cit., p. 112. 

^Of these intermediary political loyalties. The Cambridge Medieval History says: 
"It is evident in theory that a baron, being a sovereign, could not be subjected to 
any will but his own, and that therefore such common arrangements as had to be 
made in medieval society had to be effected on the same lines as modern interna- 
tional conventions. And indeed we find this idea at the root of the feudal doctrine 
of legislation; in the custom of Touraine-Anju it was expressed in the following 
way: 'The baron has all manner of justice in his territory, and the king cannot pro- 
claim his command in the land of the baron without the latter's consent; nor can 
the baron proclaim his command in the land of his tenant without the consent of 
the tenant.' " Vol. Ill, pp. 470-71. 

Marx and Engels put it pointedly: "Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of 
the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your 
jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will, whose 
essential character and direction are determined by the economic conditions of ex- 
istence of your class." Communist Manifesto, authorized English trans, ed. and an- 
notated by Frederick Engels, 1888, p. 35. See also Nikolai Bukharin, Historical 
Materialism, Chap. VI. 

148 Caste, Class, and Race 

puzzle over the apotheosis of its science ; and Condorcet, in the glare of 
the revolution itself, expressed the new passion for progress in his great 
dream of infinite perfectibility of man. By the time of the French 
Revolution, also, the townsmen had a revised religion, a "free market 
in God," which was in the making for some centuries. The Reforma- 
tion defied the most powerful estate and its philosophy and provided 
the necessary sanctions for bourgeois exploitation of opportunities}^ 

To be sure, in modern society agriculture and land continue to be 
indispensable, but land has lost its old character as the economic and 
social fundament. It no longer makes the man ; in other words, it is as 
much as it is worth in money — a mere factor of production frequently 
despised by financiers because of its inertness. The individual has been 
freed from the land, the attractiveness of which must now be proved 
in an unsentimental market. ^^ 

Probably the crucial characteristic of a social-class system is indi- 
vidualism. Although it is still true that we explain poverty or wealth by 
stereotyping large groups with certain attributes, individuals are none- 
theless assumed to have willingly chosen the course leading to their 
station in life. "Individualism," says Robertson, "believes that differ- 
ent individuals have different attributes and that each should be al- 
lowed to develop them in competition with others to the best of his 
ability."^^ Individualism* presumes also that one person is as free as an- 
other to achieve advantageous social position. It acclaims ambition, 
progress, and, above all, success. Freedom of the individual means that 
he should be permitted, at least in theory, to make the greatest progress 
for himself and that this progress would redound to the greatest good 
of society. 

The greater the distance of flight up the social-status gradient, the 
greater the social praise of the individual. That man who "minds his 
own business," adding success to success, until at last he is able to rise 

^*See Max Weber, op. cit., for one widely accepted thesis concerning the func- 
tional relationship between religion and capitalism, and the foreword by R. H. 
Tawney in which Weber's view is questioned. 

^'^Karl Marx puts it thus: ". . . agriculture comes to be more and more merely 
a branch of industry and is completely dominated by capital." See A Contribution 
to the Critique of Political Economy, trans, by N. I. Stone, p. 303. 

^"H. M. Robertson, op. cit., p. 34. Speaking of the role of money in the in- 
dividuation of persons in "the capitalistic system," Georg Simmel points out: 
"Money has brought it about that one individual may unite himself with others 
without being compelled to surrender any of his personal freedom or reserve. That 
is the fundamental and unspeakably significant difference between the medieval 
form of organization which made no diflference between the association of men as 
men and the association of men as members of an organization." From Philosophie 
des Geldes, quoted by R. E. Park and E. W. Burgess, Introduction to the Science of 
Sociology, p. 554. 

From Estate to Social Class 149 

above all material necessity or social restriction/^ so that he might boast 
himself "le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre," is the ideal of out 
social-class system. Moreover, as Thorstein Veblen has emphasized, the 
bourgeois thirst for achievement is unquenchable, and "invidious com- 
parisons" become a stimulating gauge for ceaseless striving and ac- 

So long as the comparison is distinctly unfavorable to himself, the 
normal average individual will live in chronic dissatisfaction with his 
present lot; and when he has reached what may be called the normal 
pecuniary standard of the community, or of his class in the community, 
this chronic dissatisfaction will give place to a restless straining to place 
a wider and ever widening pecuniary interval between himself and this 
average standard. The invidious comparison can never become so favor- 
able to the individual making it that he would not gladly rate himself still 
higher relatively to his competitors in the struggle for pecuniary repu- 

Instead of well-marked-ofT estates or social ranks, then, we have in 
our social-class system a constant milling of social-status atoms — that is 
to say, a circulation of individuals or families as bearers of status. The 
movement is directed upward and against a powerful "social gravity" 
that brings down the less efficient competitors relentlessly. The situation 
is dynamic, and, indeed, so sensitive that the very expectation of success 
or failure tends to influence the social status of the individual. 

A word should be said on the nature of bourgeois freedom of 
political competition called democracy. Modem democracy is not a 
revival of Athenian democracy, nor did it spring from Christianity — in 
practice it has never attained its ideals. In fact, the bourgeoisie never 
intended that it should. "Nothing was farther from the mind of the 
original middle classes than any conception of the rights of man and 
citizen. Personal liberty itself was not claimed as a natural right. It was 
sought only for the advantages it conferred. "^^ 

Quite early in the development of towns the Western bourgeois idea 

""Economic pre-eminence means economic independence, and independence 
means relative freedom from political control." See Economic Power and Political 
Pressures, Monograph No. 26, Temporary National Economic Committee, p. 22. 

^The Theory of the Leisure Class, pp. 31—32. Benjamin Franklin, sometimes 
called the pure bourgeois, says in his Autobiography: "I experienced, too, the truth 
of this observation: 'that after getting the first hundred pounds, it is more easy to 
get the second,' money itself being of a prolific nature." (Italics Franklin's.) John 
Bigelow, ed., p. 226. There has been some question concerning acquisitiveness as an 
attribute of modern capitalism. See, for instance. Max Weber, op. cit., p. 58 and 

"Henri Pirenne, Medieval Cities, p. 177. Pirenne declares further: "Freedom, as 
the middle class conceive it, was a monopoly." P. 221. 

150 Caste, Class, and Race 

of citizenship, the "territorial" idea as distinct from the "personal" or 
religious basis of association, characteristic of feudalism, came into be- 
ing. Persons who lived in the town were presumed to benefit from the 
very fact of "communal" residence; hence they were compelled to take 
an oath of loyalty to the jurisdiction of the area. Says P. Boissonnade, 
"It was an association for mutual defense, and it exacted from its 
members an absolute devotion, sealed by an oath, in exchange for the 
precious rights which it assured them, above all, in the domain of 
practical interests. . . . This is the fertile germ out of which . . . 
there sprang medieval democracy, the mother of all modem democ- 
racies.""" Here, too, we may observe the germ of modern nationalism, 
which was destined to become the most powerful idee-force in the 
mature bourgeois state. 

It has been said that one of the greatest sins of democracy is hy- 
pocrisy. But if reference is to the form of government which has existed 
for, say, the last hundred years in France, England, and the United 
States, then the saying might well be changed to mean that hypocrisy 
is elemental in democracy. And yet in a sense the idea is inappropriate, 
for a quality that is inherent cannot at the same time be dispensable. 
This bitter charge has its roots in the unattainable assumption of po- 
litical democracy that every individual in the system is in fact equally 
free to achieve, and in the conflict of distinct political-class ideologies 
inherent in bourgeois society. 

Capitalistic freedom means ostensible freedom to compete for the 
available wealth of the nation, and political democracy is the method 
of government which purports to assure the commonwealth that every 
individual will abide by the rules of the game. This freedom, which the 
eighteenth-century city dwellers died for, requires that he who fails in 
the competitive struggle be a good sport, for was he not master of his 
own chances of success? Herbert Hoover expresses the traditional view 
in characterizing the government as the "umpire in our social system."^^ 

^Life and Work in Medieval Europe, p. 197. 

^American Individualism, p. 51. Cf. Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Social- 
ism, and Democracy, pp. 297-98. 

It may be well to mention that this ideology is not so unbiased as it might first 
seem. In reality the bourgeois government as umpire keeps the rules of a game in 
which the players are very unequally matched. As one nineteenth-century priest 
exclaimed: "Be advised, oh, ye who do not already know it; be advised, ye 
enemies of God and man — by whatever names ye be known — that in matters be- 
tween the strong and the weak, between the rich and the poor, between master and 
servant, it is liberty that enslaves and the law which emancipates." Speech delivered 
April 2, 1848, by the Rev. Father Lacordaire, quoted by Louis Marlio, Can Democ- 
racy Recover?, p. 27. Here the idea of law is that of control of the powerful instead 
of laissez faire. 

From Estate to Social Class 151 

Furthermore, from the beginning it was intended that the government 
should be in fact in the hands of the successful. 

The realities of bourgeois government have undergone practically no 
change. Recently a distinguished American businessman made it quite 
clear what democracy really means to businessmen. "Businessmen," he 
declared, "naturally are apprehensive of any unnecessary intervention 
of government in the functions of private enterprise ... as under- 
mining the democratic concept of individual liberty. . . . The func- 
tion of governmental agencies in normal times is that of assisting private 
enterprise by the removal of barriers to its legitimate undertakings."^^ 

It is in the United States that freedom, business freedom, has at- 
tained its highest perfection. "This," says John Stuart Mill, "is what 
every free people ought to be ; a people capable of this is certain to be 
free."^^ Again, that great individualist, Herbert Hoover, even thinks 
that democracy in America is unique. 

Our individualism differs from all others because it embraces these 
great ideals: that while we build our society upon the attainment of the 
individual, we shall safeguard to every individual an equality of oppor- 
tunity to take that position in the community to which his intelligence, 
character, ability, and ambition entitle him; that we keep the social 
solution free from frozen strata of classes ; that we shall stimulate effort of 
each individual to achievement . . . while he in turn must stand up to 
the emery wheel of competition.-'* 

This is liberalism, the great antagonist of the feudal estate system.^^ 
Liberalism is sometimes confused with democracy, which is in fact 
antagonistic to it. Democratic ideals are proletarian ideals and, in so 
far as they are allowed expression in bourgeois society, they tend to 
limit the full expression of liberalism. As Lewis Corey asserts concern- 
ing democracy: ". . . the mere ideal is dangerous to capitalism, and 

""From address by E. P. Thomas, President, National Foreign Trade Council, 
delivered April 27, 1943, at the Thirty-first Annual Meeting of the Chamber of 
Commerce of the United States. To this Marx and Engels agree: "By freedom is 
meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade — free 
selling and buying." The Communist Manifesto, p. 33. 

^From Utilitarianism, Liberty, Representative Government, cited by Albert R. 
Chandler, The Clash of Political Ideals, p. 106. 

^Herbert Hoover, op. cit., p. 9. For a studied development of this thesis, see The 
American Individual Enterprise System, by the Economic Principles Commission of 
the National Association of Manufacturers, New York and London, 1 946, 2 vols. 

""Liberalism, of course, is this and much more. For a discussion see Harold J. 
Laski, The Rise of Liberalism; Guido de Ruggiero, The History of European Lib- 
eralism, trans, by R. G. Collingwood; L. T. Hobhouse, Liberalism. 

152 Caste, Class, and Race 

it is the object of a growing offensive.""^ In a later chapter this point 
will be discussed more fully. 

Another type of social phenomenon, distinct from social class but 
frequently confused with it, is the "political class." We shall now con- 
sider this. 

^The Decline of American Capitalism, p. 521. 

10, The Political Class 

social-Status systems: estates and social classes. In this chapter we 
shall attempt to determine the characteristics of political classes which 
do not constitute a system. The term "political class" is used here, for 
want of a more suitable one, to distinguish a social phenomenon usually 
called "class" or "social class" from that which we have previously de- 
scribed as "social class." Instead of the term "political class," the 
designation "economic class"^ might have been used, but economic 
determinants are evidently at the base of social classes also. On the 
other hand, to substitute the German word Stand for "social class" is 
to introduce a concept that is already confused in the literature. At any 
rate, the designation may be of less significance than its meaning.^ 

Meaning of Political Class 

"Any city, however small," says Plato, "is in fact divided into two; 
one, the city of the poor, the other, of the rich ; these are at war with 
one another."^ To the same effect, Franklin H. Giddings concludes: 
"In every sovereign state there are would-be states. . . . Every would-be 
state strives actively to become sovereign. It initiates and foments class 
struggle."* We could go on citing conclusions about class struggle 
almost indefinitely, but they would all tend to be divided into two 

^In this study we shall not discuss economic classes as functional groups. Farmers, 
bankers, investors, teachers, and so on, are occupational groups which may be classi- 
fied into economic classes according to the immediate interest of the taxonomist. 
These groups cannot be equated to either social or political classes. 

"In his speech in Naples, August 1 1, 1922, Mussolini called the Fascists "a new 
political class." 

"The Works of Plato, trans, by B. Jowett, pp. 137-38. 

*Quoted by Charles Hunt Page, Class and American Sociology, p. 165. 

154 Caste, Class, and Race 

main groups: those before, and those after, Karl Marx. Marx himself 

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle. 
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master 
and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant 
opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now 
open fight, a fight that each time ended either in a revolutionary recon- 
stitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending 
classes. . . . The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the 
ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has 
but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of 
struggle in place of the old ones. Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, 
possesses, however, this distinctive feature; it has simplified the class 
antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two 
great battle camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: 
Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.^ 

In all the voluminous works of Marx, however, there is no definition 
of class, and, naturally, no clear distinction between the idea of these 
"two great classes directly facing each other" and that of the social- 
class system. These are both products of bourgeois economy, and in the 
literature following Marx both are usually referred to as "social 
classes." At the outset it should be made clear that political-class action 
may be found in all organized society, and certainly it is not necessarily 
limited to the period of the rise of urbanism in Europe. Bourgeoisie- 
proletariat struggle is one type of political-class action; it is a product 
of modern capitalistic society. But we may repeat that fully developed 
social-class systems are also unknown to ancient society ; they came into 
their own only after 1789. 

It must be already obvious that political and social classes are dis- 
tinct phenomena. Social classes form a system of co-operating con- 
ceptual status entities ; political classes,, on the other hand, do not con- 
stitute a system at all, for they are antagonistic. '^ The political class is 
a power group which tends to be organized for conflict ; the social class 
is never organized, for it is a concept only. Although the political class 
is ordinarily weighted with persons from a special sector of the social- 
status gradient, it may include persons from every position.'^ Hence we 
do not speak of political classes as forming a hierarchy ; they may con- 

^Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto, pp. 12—13. 

'Cf. Joseph A. Schumpeter, op. cit., pp. 53-54. 

''The status system of any society, whether it be estate, caste, or social class, always 
presumes the inclusion of every individual ; but, although the outcome of political- 
class struggle invariably affects the social condition of every individual in the 
society, the immediate contending political classes may include only a minority of 

The Political Class 155 

ceivably split the social hierarchy vertically ; therefore, there is here no 
primary conception of social stratification. In other words, members of 
jt he po litical class ordinarily do not have a common social statusTThese 
classes, therefore, are not thought of as social-class strata but as organi- 
zations arrayed face to face against each other. Furthermore, unlike the 
social class, the political class seeks to attract members to itself, and 
group solidarity is highly valued. Social solidarity is not a characteristic 
of social classes, for it is expected that persons are constantly attracted 
upward and away from their social position, while those who fall may 
be allowed to sink even farther. 

Control of the State — a Goal 

As a power group, the political class is preoccupied with devices for 
controlling the state. In emphasizing this point, Lewis L. Lorwin says: 
"Since the power of the ruling class is always concentrated in the 
organization of the state, the oppressed class must aim directly against 
the mechanism of the state. Every class struggle is thus a political 
struggle, which in its objectives aims at the abolition of the existing 
social order and at the establishment of a new social system."® How- 
ever, political-class action may not be identified with that of political 
factions, for the faction may have as its purpose nothing more than the 
acquisition of the spoils of office. Thus different political factions may 
represent the same political class. Political factions may come into be- 
ing, disappear, or regroup, "but the fundamental interests of the classes 
remain. That party [faction] conquers which is able to feel out and 
satisfy the fundamental demands of a class.'"' 

the population. In other words, the political classes may have a "phantom public" 
larger in numbers than themselves. Of course, we do not mean to say that this 
public is of no importance. It may remain apathetic or it may shift its weight of 
sentiment toward one side or the other — it is always watched by the contending 

^See "Class Struggle," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 

"See Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, Vol. Ill, p. 338. 

In the United States there is only one effective political party, with two factions: 
Republicans and Democrats. There is no effective Socialist party, the organized 
leadership of the opposite political class. 

The following is a political-faction, and thus quite misleading, analysis of the 
modern class struggle: "The important long-run consideration is not what political 
philosophy or what ideology the present ruling class now holds, but rather to what 
extent the economic powers, and hence the livelihood of all the people in those 
countries [Germany, Italy, and Russia], are in the hands of the government. How 
governments use such important powers will change from time to time depending 
on what groups of politicians temporarily are in power. And what these groups will 
be is, in totalitarian states as in other countries, to a large extent accidental, and 
certainly unpredictable." James Harvey Rogers, Capitalism in Crisis, pp. 6-7. 
(Italics added.) 


156 Caste, Class, and Race 

Furthermore, in class-conflict situations the object on trial is not an 
administration but rather a political system; the whole institutional 
order may be marked for weeding out. Says Paul M. Sweezy: "Any 
particular state is the child of the class or classes in society which bene- 
fit from the particular set of property relations which it is the state's 
obligation to enforce. "^° It is this pattern of property relationships 
which political-class conflict threatens. Hence the goal of a political 
class is always control of the state. As an instance of this, Frederick L. 
Schuman, commenting upon the seizure of power by the German Nazis, 
declares: "The first step in the evolution of the judicial system of the 
Third Reich was the identification of the [Nazi] Party with the State 
and the punishment of offences against the Party as crimes against the 

Method and Procedure 

Class struggle is not only a course of action but also a process of win- 
ning new adherents to some political ideal or of maintaining old con- 
victions. The political class usually has a policy and a propaganda 
machine. The ideal of the attacking political class is neither Utopian 
nor merely conflictive; it involves a rational plan for displacing the 
existing government. "An effective revolutionary ideology," says Alfred 
Meusel, "must reveal to the rising social class that it is and why it is a 
class distinct from the society into which it was bom; it must offer a 
critique of the existing order and draw the general outline of the ideal 

No ruling class can be overthrown simply by sporadic conflict; "revo- 
lutionism" is ordinarily pointless. Adolf Hitler saw this clearly in his 
assertion that a new way of life must be presented as superior to the old : 

Every attempt at fighting a view of life by means of force will finally 
fail, unless the fight against it represents the form of an attack for the 

'^"The Theory of Capitalist Development, p. 242. 

^The Nazi Dictatorship, p. 301. Dr. Goebbels had already said: "If in our strug- 
gle against a corrupt system, we are today forced to be a 'party' . . . the instant 
the system crumbles, we will become the State." Quoted by Daniel Guerin, Fascism 
and Big Business, p. 134. And another revolutionist, Leon Trotsky, declares: "A 
class struggle carried to its conclusion is a struggle for state power." Op. cit.. Vol. I, 
p. 169. 

^"Revolution and Counter-Revolution," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 
Sombart sees the activities of the aggressive political class definitively: "By a social 
movement we understand the aggregate of all those endeavors of a social class which 
are directed to a rational overturning of an existing social order to suit the interests 
of this class." Socialism and the Social Movement in the igth Century, trans, by 
Anson P. Atterbury, p. 3. 

The Political Class 157 

sake of a new spiritual direction. Only in the struggle of two views of 
life with each other can the weapon of brute force, used continuously 
and ruthlessly, bring about the decision in favor of the side it supports.^' 

A political class develops naturally — that is to say, new political 
classes come into being inevitably with significant changes in the 
method of economic production and economic distribution. On the 
other hand, class conflict is consciously developed between the classes. 
Werner Sombart gives the following stages in the development of class 
struggle: ". . . first a difference of class, then class interests [con- 
sciousness], then class opposition, finally class strife."^* A political class 
becomes conscious of itself only through successful propaganda; the 
objective position of the class and its aims must be focused by its lead- 
ers. We may put it in this way: As a function of the economic order, 
the class has potential existence, but as the result of agitation it be- 
comes organized for conflict. The dominant political class becomes 
class-conscious — and sometimes with overwhelming vehemence — in re- 
sponse, or as a counteraction, to the developing class consciousness of 
the subordinate class. 

Therefore, no class ever realizes its ideals as a matter of course. "To 
realize these ideals," says Sombart, "it is necessary to become inspired, 
to kindle a heart's glow, to develop a fire of enthusiasm."^'^ And, in the 
style of a great modern counterrevolutionist. Hitler declared : 

One must not think that the French Revolution would ever have come 
about by philosophical theories, if it had not found an army of instigators, 
led by demagogues of the grandest sort, who whipped up the passions of 
. . . the people, till finally that terrible volcanic eruption took place. ^^ 

In all social movements the masses are taken into consideration ; both 
the ruling class and the attacking class appeal to the people. Yet the 

"^Mein Kampf, p. 223. 

"Op. cit, p. 110. 

"Ibid., p. 151. To the same efTect Albert Mathies declares: "The great majority 
of men are unaware of injustice until it is pointed out to them. The denunciation 
of abuses is an essential preliminary to a demand for reform; a clearly formulated 
ideal, the prerequisite of a loyal following." See "French Revolution," Encyclopedia 
of the Social Sciences. On this point Lewis L. Lorwin also says: "The objective ex- 
istence of class interests does not mean that these interests arc always understood by 
the class itself. In fact for a number of reasons, a class may be devoid of class con- 
sciousness; the inherent contradictions between classes may not become clear at once 
because economic processes go through several stages of development. Ibid., "Class 

^'Op. cit., p. 711. And already Danton and Delacroix had said: "Revolutions are 
not made on tea. . . . The principles of justice and humanity are well enough in 
theory and in the books of philosophers; but in practice it is necessary to employ 
other means; one must have cut-throats in one's pay." See Pierre Gaxotte, The 
French Revolution, trans, by Walter A. Phillips, p. 249. 

158 Caste y Class, and Race 

outcome of the struggle may affect the interest of the people only in- 
directly. Some of the most violent class conflicts in history, fought in 
the interest of one privileged class against another, have utilized the 
exploited masses on both sides. Even though the real purpose of the 
class is antagonistic to the interest of the common people, it will always 
seek to convert them." For instance, the Nazi leader, mindful of this, 

If one had recognized the tremendous power which at all times is due 
to the masses as the bearer of revolutionary resistance, one would certainly 
have applied a different policy as regards social and propagandistic direc- 
tions. Then the center of weight of the movement would not have been 
removed to parliament, but stressed in the workshops and streets. ^^ 


Ordinarily it is not possible to delimit definitely a political class by 
observing actual personal characteristics such as occupation, wealth, 
religious affiliation, or social-class position. The idealism of political 
classes may override individual differences. Indeed the leadership of 
the aggressor class may arise from the ruling class itself. Robert Michels 
emphasizes this in concluding that "every great class movement in his- 
tory has arisen upon the instigation, with the co-operation, and under 
the leadership of men sprung from the very class against which the 
movement was directed."^^ 

Marx and Engels had already said: ". . . in times when the class- 
struggle nears the decisive hour, the process of dissolution going on 
within the ruling class, in fact, within the whole range of the old society, 
assumes such a violent, glaring character that a small section of the rul- 
ing class cuts itself adrift and joins the revolutionary class . . .""° The 
particular disadvantaged group, then, may not produce its own leader- 
ship. It is obvious, however, that no great part of one class will desert 
and enter the ranks of the other; the desertion, though significant, oc- 
curs only in isolated cases. 

"Louis Adamic quotes the financier, Jay Gould, as remarking symbolically: "I can 
hire one half the working class to kill the other half." Dynamite : The Story of Class 
Violence in America, p. 23. 

^^Adolf Hitler, op. cit., p. 138. 

^^Political Parties, trans, by Eden and Cedar Paul, pp. 238-39. 

^Communist Manifesto, p. 26. Quite frequently in discussions of contemporary 
political-class action charges are made that the aggressor class is planning an over- 
throw of democracy. This, however, is misleading. The attack is really against the 
bourgeois economic system, and a supplanting of the latter need not necessarily 
involve an abandonment of all possible forms of democratic method. 

The Political Class 159 

The Purpose and Composition of Classes 

The political class is probably always motivated by some socio- 
economic interest. According to John Strachey : ". . . it is a change in 
economic conditions, a change in methods of production . . . which 
first shifts the balance of strength in the community, and so starts the 
whole movement,""^ The class aims primarily at controlling the policies 
of production and distribution of wealth. Sometimes this interest may 
be couched in a religious, racial, or even a nationalistic rationale, in 
which case some analysis will be necessary to determine the purpose of 
the class. A political-class movement will develop when, because of new 
methods of production or maturation of old methods, economic power 
has been shifted to some section of the population without at the same 
time shifting the political power. This is the basis of political-class dis- 

Of course, not all forms of social antagonism are political-class 
antagonism. As Pirenne points out : 

Nothing was more tragic than the situation of the Flemish towns in 
which the social hatred raged with the frenzy of madness. In 1320-32 the 
"good people" of Ypres implored the King not to allow the inner bastion 
of the town, in which they lived and which protected them from the 
"common people," to be demolished. The history of this town, like that 
of Ghent and Bruges, abounds in bloody struggles, setting the cloth- 
workers at grips with "those who had something to lose." The struggle 
took on more and more the appearance of a class war between rich and 
poor. But it was this in appearance only. There was no common under- 
standing among the mass of workers in revolt. The fullers, whose wages 
the weavers claimed to fix, or rather, to reduce, treated the latter as 
enemies and in order to escape from their exploitation, supported the 
"good people." As to the small-scale crafts, all detested the "odious 

There are many group skirmishes which result from local group 
friction. In their adjustments, however, the social order remains en- 
tirely out of view; furthermore, there may be international wars be- 

^The Coming Struggle for Power, p. 21. 

"Henri Pirenne, Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe, p. 206. 
(Italics added.) Eduard Heimann makes a similar observation: "The German 
Peasants' Revolts of 1524—25, which were choked in streams of blood by the nobles 
. . . had sprung only from the desire of the peasants to restore genuine feudal 
morality and responsibility by the nobles for their protection against abuse and 
exploitation." Communism, Fascism or Democracy, p. 39. So, too, other peasant 
revolts at about this period all over Europe, such as the Jacquerie uprising in France 
in 1358, were desperate movements mercilessly crushed by the nobles. 

i6o Caste, Class, and Race 

tween ruling classes which do not contemplate a rearrangement of the 
political-class alignment in any nation. A peasant revolt may be simply 
a defense of certain customary rights. 

A gang, sect, denomination, social club, or lodge need not represent 
a political class. These are intraclass institutional groups, and they 
may have problems which they seek to solve politically; yet their end 
is ordinarily the fostering of their own limited interests rather than the 
controlling of the state for the purpose of reorganizing the economic 
order. Institutional groups of this kind may be called special-purpose 
groups; their outlook is circumscribed, specialized, and exclusive. They 
may, however, be altruistic. Within the ongoing social order they pro- 
pose to work for their own welfare or for that of certain limited groups 
in the society. 

Their limits of possible social activity are those of political and social 
reform ; they are, at most, interested in a more propitious operation of 
the status quo. As an illustration, ordinary opportunistic labor union- 
ism is not politically class-minded, though it is always interested in see- 
ing its friends in office as an assurance of its own welfare. Labor- 
unionism begins to have a political-class appeal when it becomes ex- 
plicitly revolutionary — that is to say, with reference to a capitalistic 
society, when it becomes socialistic, syndicalistic, communistic, or 

Ordinarily only those persons who take the side of a political class 
will be included in that class, and this must be so because it is a con- 
flict group. It is, therefore, practically impossible to define the mem- 
bership of a political class in terms of objective criteria only. The 
correlation between the material position of a person and his social 
attitudes may not be perfect. Thus in attempting to delimit a political 
class, to differentiate proletariat from bourgeoisie, Goetz A. Briefs con- 
cludes : 

A proletarian is a propertyless wage earner . . . who regards himself 
and his kind as constituting a distinct class, who lives and forms his ideas 
in the light of this class consciousness according to class ideals, and who 
on the basis of this class consciousness rejects the prevailing social and 
economic order. . . . To be a proletarian ... is, therefore, not to have 
a certain occupation or a certain economic and social status, but to have 
a characteristic mental set, a predisposition to react to one's given environ- 
ment in ways no better to be described than by the term proletarian.-^ 

^The term "political class" in our meaning is not synonymous with Gaetano 
Mosca's ruling class, which seems to be limited to the administrative head of a gov- 
ernment. See The Ruling Class, trans, by Hanna D. Khan. 

'^The Proletariat, pp. 50-5 1 . 

The Political Class i6i 

Recognizing this inevitable characteristic of the political class will 
enable us to explain what Professor Sorokin thinks is a contradiction. 
According to this writer, ". . , the theoretical conceptions of the Com- 
munists are vaguely different and contradictory, [because] in their 
practice ... a proletarian has been regarded as anyone who has sup- 
ported the Communists although he occupied the position of a capital- 
ist or was a privileged and wealthy man. The non-proletarians have 
been regarded as all who have not supported the Communist govern- 
ment, though they were the common laboring men in factories."^^ 
This, obviously, is not an inconsistency of political-class action. One 
may put it briefly that a political-class member is one who believes in 
and is willing to follow the ideals of that class. This, at any rate, is a 
decisive characterization in open political-class conflict. 

Relationship of Political and Social Classes 

Sometimes a confusion of the meaning of social and political class 
has caused many writers to question the proposition that it is possible 
for an advanced society to be a "classless" society. They will argue that 
men are born unequal, both in physique and aptitude, that society will 
always contrive to distribute its favors among its members according to 
their contributions to the social welfare, and that this principle holds 
even though the range of social emoluments is narrower in some soci- 
eties than in others. Clearly, however, this constitutes a social-class 
reference, which the advocates of a classless society could not have in 
mind. The latter are thinking about large groups with fundamentally 
divergent economic interests — about antagonistic groups — and not par- 
ticularly of the co-operative status system. Observe, for example, the 
following argument of John Strachey: 

Since there are, by definition, no classes in a communist society, there 
can be no class friction ; there can be no necessity for the immense expendi- 
tures of social effort which are today necessary in order forcibly to adjust 
the relationship of inherently antagonistic classes.-® 

A political-classless society, then, need not imply a statusless soci- 
ety.^^ In other words, there seems to be no necessary functional relation- 

^Contemporary Sociological Theories, p. 543, note. 

^Op. cit., p. 349. 

^It seems that R. H. Tawney has been forced to stretch his logic extremely in 
order to achieve some meaning of a classless society. He declares: "A society marked 
by sharp disparities of wealth and power might properly, nevertheless, be described 
as classless, since it was open to each man to become wealthy and powerful." Op. 
cit., p. 123. 

1 62 Caste, Class, and Race 

ship between political and social classes. It may not be even true to 
state that the greater the rigidity of the status system, the greater the 
likelihood of the formation of political classes. The stable caste system 
of India, for instance, has not been particularly disposed to political- 
class conflict. At any rate, the absence of political classes does not imply 
an absence of social classes.^^ But reference to one political class always 
implies the existence of one or more counterclasses. If there is only one 
unopposed political class, the society may be said to be politically class- 

Thus, in the days of rampant capitalism in the United States, there 
was probably only one organized political class ; there is probably only 
one active political class in Russia today. Yet there have always been 
social classes in these countries. There is always latent or open class 
struggle in a society in which there is more than one political class ; but 
social classes, to reiterate, are not in conflict. They supplement and sup- 
port each other. 

The political class may become "class-conscious" ; social classes, on 
the other hand, cannot be. Class consciousness is a political-class at- 
tribute;"^ however, with reference to a social-class system, persons may 
be status-conscious.^*' Although a significant number of persons in a 
society may be characterized by some common economic or other 
social interests, they do not become an active political class until they 
develop class consciousness. Thus, the search for and conversion of 
potential class members are major functions of political-class leaders. 

'^^See on this point Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Soviet CommunisTn: A New 
Civilisation?, pp. 1021—24. 

""It is to political-class consciousness which Robert Briffault refers when he says: 
"There will ... be a type of mind, an idealogy, corresponding to the economic 
situation of a ruling land-owning aristocracy; another type determined by the eco- 
nomic situation of a trading middle class, or a bourgeoisie; another corresponding 
to the situation of a servile proletarian class. The specific characters of those types 
of mind and of their contents will vary according to their respective relations. Thus, 
the character of the aristocrat mind will be modified according as its power is un- 
challenged, or as it is involved in conflict with rival class interests. The middle class, 
or bourgeois mind, will assume a slightly different form according as it is contending 
for emancipation from feudal domination or its own power is challenged by the 
proletarians. The proletarian mind will differ according as the servile class is com- 
pletely crushed or is content and resigned, or acquires hopes of emancipation and 
becomes 'class-conscious'. . . . The' class mentality is thus not only determined by 
a fixed tradition, but is constantly active and undergoing adjustment in relation to 
changing conditions." Reasons for Anger, pp. 52—53. 

^"We are assuming here that social classes are conceptual entities. Persons of 
given statuses occupying a certain span of the social-status continuum constitute 
an entity only in the minds of individuals. 

The Political Class 163 

The Economic Man and the Class Struggle 

Political classes have almost never been able to attain their ends 
without violence. This, of course, is due to the fact that the ruling 
class does not yield without it, and because this class holds its position 
by virtue of its monopoly of power. The Machiavellian postulate that a 
man's property — his economic interest — is as good and sometimes 
better than his life clearly obtains in interclass relationship. Political 
classes are never convinced merely by arguments at the round table. 
These groups match power, not wits. Adolf Hitler put it impressively : 

Every negotiation which does not have power behind it would be 
ridiculous and fruitless. . . . Even the best negotiators can achieve slight 
success as long as the ground on which they stand and the chair on which 
they sit are not the shield arm of their nation. ^'■ 

Ordinarily, the greater the apparent cogency of the logic of the one 
side, the greater the intransigence of the other. Conviction by argu- 
ment and reasoning comes only when these are backed up by a show of 
overwhelming physical might. To put the matter otherwise, the ruling 
class knows well on which side its bread is buttered and it will not be 
hoodwinked, or argued, or cajoled out of its position. Moreover, the 
ascendant class cannot be eased down gently with a Satyagraha or a 
sit-down strike;^' it will accept no substitute for an open matching of 
physical power.^^ "Attempts at persuasion fail miserably," says Robert 
Michels, "when they are addressed to the privileged classes, in order to 
induce these to abandon, to their own disadvantage, as a class and as 
individuals, the leading positions they occupy in society."^* To expect 

"^Op. cit., p. 982. On this point the great William E. Gladstone remarked: "If 
no considerations in a political crisis had been addressed to the people of this 
country, except to remember to hate violence and love order and exercise patience, 
the liberties of this country would never have been obtained." Quoted in Emmeline 
Pethnick-Lawrence, My Part in a Changing World, p. 269. 

''"To be sure, "passive resistance" is ordinarily the only way to fight when one is 
empty-handed. Little children sometimes fight their parents in that way. Certain 
groups may make a virtue of this necessity and exploit it religiously. Even so, we 
should remember that not all fig'hts are political-class struggles. 

'""Again Hitler is in point: ". . . in the last analysis, the decisive question is 
always this: what is to be done if passive resistance finally gets on the opponent's 
nerves and he launches a fight against it with brute force? Is one determined to offer 
further resistance? If so, bear, for better or worse, the most violent, bloodiest hound- 
ing. In that case one faces what one faces in active resistance, namely, struggle. 
Hence every so-called passive resistance has real significance only if backed up by 
a determination, if need be, to continue resistance by qpen struggle or by means 
of clandestine warfare." Op. cit., pp. 989—90. 

'Op. cit., pp. 244—45. The author declares further: "A class considered as a 
whole never spontaneously surrenders its position of advantage. It never recognizes 

164 Caste, Class, and Race 

a ruling class to commit suicide for the mere asking is clearly too 
colossal a presumption. As Leon Trotsky put it: "One can talk over 
petty details with an enemy, but not matters of life and death." 
Werner Sombart presents the common-sense logic of the position of the 
ruling class when he asserts : 

The utopists fail to see, in their optimism, that a part of the society 
looks upon the status quo as thoroughly satisfactory and desires no change, 
that this part also has an interest in sustaining it, and that a specific con- 
dition of society always obtains because those persons, who are interested 
in it, have the power to sustain it. . . . Now judge for yourself what a 
mistaken estimate of the true world, what boundless underestimate of 
opposing forces, lie in the belief that those who have power can be moved 
to surrender their position through preaching and promise. ^^ 

This discussion, to be sure, must rest partly upon historical proof, or 
at least the absence of it, for it cannot be shown that in the past any 
political class has yielded without a conflict. Indeed, the position has 
been taken that a major change in the social order necessarily involves 
drastic measures, because "no political system is so flexible as to be sus- 
ceptible to fundamental change by 'legal' means; and illegality implies 
resort to force by the revolutionist as well as by the state which he at- 

As a matter of fact, the law itself is the instrument of the ruling class ; 
hence it is a logical impossibility for another class to assume power 
legally. "It is no reproach to law," says Edward H. Carr, "to describe 
it as a bulwark of the existing order."^^ The political postulates of the 
opposing classes are inevitably antagonistic ; as a consequence there can 
be no common judicial procedure. "The law is not an abstraction. It 
cannot be understood independently of the political foundation on 
which it rests and the political interest which it serves."^^ 

The ideology of the ruling class and the established social order will 
be defended obstinately, not only because it ensures the interest of that 

any moral reason sufficiently powerful to compel it to abdicate in favor of its 
'poorer brethren.' Such action is prevented, if by nothing else, by class egoism. . . ." 
Thomas Jefferson realized this clearly when he wrote to John Quincy Adams in 
1823 concerning the European class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the no- 
bility, saying: "To obtain all this [liberty in European countries], rivers of blood 
must yet flow, and years of desolation pass over; yet the object is worth rivers of 
blood and years of desolation." Democracy, by Thomas Jefferson, ed. by Saul 
Padover, p. 239. 

=^Op. cit, p. 33. 

^Alfred Meusel, op. cit. 

^^The Twenty Years' Crisis, p. 244. 

'^Ibid., p. 229. 

The Political Class 165 

class, but also because it will inevitably seem that its defense is "indis- 
pensable to the preservation of society."^^ The suppression of one 
political class by another, then, is seldom, if ever, a windfall. When the 
vested interests of the ruling class are threatened, its members will deal 
mercilessly with the challenging class, at the same time readily putting 
even their own lives in jeopardy. Thus, the exercise of violence is the 
constant and inevitable prerogative of the ruling class; the revolution- 
aries can assume power only after they have limited or relieved this 
class of its freedom to control the decisive instruments of violence. 

The political class may strive to attain its ends through political 
machinery, as the Republicans of Spain attempted to do by elections in 
1 93 1 and 1936; or it may adopt counterrevolutionary methods,^" as the 
Rebels of the same country did in 1936. But these initiating tactics 
merely illustrate further the foregoing principle that a ruling class will 
not allow itself to be displaced "peacefully." In this, probably the most 
spectacular recent contest between established political classes, the rich 
and powerful Church, the upper crust of the army, and the landed 
aristocracy mainly defied the attack of the leaders of labor, the middle- 
class intellectuals, civil servants, and peasants. The sanguinary nature 
of the ensuing struggle for power is well known. 

It may seem appalling to those long used to living under the easy rule 
of one powerful political class that probably the only way of disposing 
of a strongly entrenched political class is by extirpating it; yet the 
exigencies of political-class struggle compel such a procedure. Ordi- 
narily, obstruction or curtailment of the power of a political class 
merely infuriates it. "A radical revolution . . . exacts a heavy toll of 
human life and suffering; but the transformations it effects are more 
fundamental and permanent than those achieved at smaller cost under 
the leadership of moderates."'^ The supplanting of one class by an- 
other literally calls for the overturning of one class by another; and 
since the dominant political class always controls the State, the purpose 
of the attacking class must inevitably be the "overthrow of the Govern- 
ment," a terrible business at best. The signers of the American Declara- 
tion of Independence were under no illusions about this. Consider their 

^See Henri Pirenne, op. cit., p. 51. Already Marx and Engels had said: "Just as, 
to the bourgeois, the disappearance of class property is the disappearance of produc- 
tion itself, so the disappearance of class culture is to him identical with the disap- 
pearance of all culture." Communist Manifesto, p. 35. For a naive construction of 
this see W. H. V. Reade, The Revolt of Labor against Civilization. 

^''In so far as open violence is concerned, the methods of the revolutionary and 
the counterrevolutionary are essentially the same. 

"Alfred Meusel, op. cit. 

1 66 Caste, Class, and Race 

last words : "And for the support of this Declaration . . . we mutually 
pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."*^ 
Violence, then, is a necessary consequence of political-class action, 
and probably the swifter and more decisive the action, the more eco- 
nomical it will be in terms of human lives. The Spanish Republicans 
attempted to temporize with the class in power instead of liquidating it, 
and the result was the shedding of the blood and violent handling of 
probably well-nigh half the population of Spain; furthermore, the 
revolution still remains to be fought. It seems that in political-class 
action especially it is foolhardy to try "leaping the abyss in two jumps." 
When, therefore, the structure of a ruling class has become weakened 
and decadent because of a new economic situation, its prompt de- 
struction by the rising social class may be cheapest in terms of human 
lives.^^ In the thick of the French Revolution, in 1790, when the King 
and the aristocracy were plotting a counterrevolution with the aid of 
foreign armies, Jean Paul Marat, "the friend of the people," ex- 
claimed: "Five or six hundred executions would have assured you 
repose, liberty and happiness; a false humanity has restrained your 
hands and stopped your blows; this will cost the lives of millions of 
your brothers ; if your enemies triumph . . . they will cut your throats 

*^Both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were powerful alien subverters 
of the French Government. With reference to the role which Franklin played in 
prerevolutionary France, Pierre Gaxotte declares: "His house at Passy at once 
became the headquarters of the agitators. He was the high priest of the philosophers, 
the Messiah of the malcontents, the patron of the framers of systems. . . . People 
wrote him from all quarters, begging him for advice. ... A lawyer — Brissot — 
asked him questions about the New World, where he was thinking of going to take 
lessons in revolution. Another lawyer dedicated to him his first speech in court; and 
this lawyer was Robespierre. . . . The United States had provided the revolution- 
ary doctrine with something which it had hitherto lacked: namely, an example. 
What was to happen in the future now depended wholly on the energy of the 
Government." Op. cit., pp. 55-56. For his share in sapping the foundations of the 
French Government, Thomas Paine was made a French citizen and elected deputy 
for Pas-de-Calais. See also Samuel Bernstein, "Jefferson and the French Revolu- 
tion," Science and Society, Vol. VH, Spring, 1943, pp. i i5ff. 

*^In this discussion we should not be thought of as advocating violence or revolu- 
tion. Peoples have revolted in the past and we expect them to continue to do so. 
Qur question then refers to how and when are revolutions successful. The situation 
is ripe for revolution when some minority or majority of the population feels that it 
is being unjustly "oppressed" and that it can command the power to bring the 
government to terms. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln saw even a moral right in such 
action : "Any people anywhere being inclined and having the power have the right 
to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits 
them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right — a right which we hope 
and believe is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined to cases in which the 
whole people of an existing government may choose to exercise it. ... A majority 
of any portion of such people may revolutionize, putting down a minority, inter- 
mingled with or near about them, who may oppose the movement. Such minority 
was precisely the case of the Tories of our own revolution." John G. Nicolay and 
John Hay, Abraham Lincoln Complete Works, Vol. I, p. 105. 

The Political Class 167 

without pity ... to extinguish forever the love of Hberty among you." 
Ordinarily the social system must be literally purged, and the cathartic 
is inevitably drastic. 

Now that we have said this, however, we must hasten to add that 
the potentialities of violence exercised by the different classes may not 
be the same. In a real political-class struggle — that is to say, a struggle 
for the recognition of a social system economically rooted in the society 
itself — violence is particularly the effective instrument of the attacking 
class. The leadership of the attacking class can seldom be killed off; it 
is a sort of sporiferous social phenomenon, regenerating increasingly 
under violence. Therefore, at a certain stage of intensity in the struggle, 
the use of violence by the ruling class may serve only to crystallize anti- 
tyrannical sentiment against itself, thus expediting its own doom. On 
the other hand, the destruction of the leadership of the senescent ruling 
class will necessarily mean its consumption, because with this event not 
only is the old leadership supplanted, but also a new and more vigorous 
social system emerges. 

An example of a common type of fearful, hopeful thinking on this 
subject, a position ordinarily taken by revisionist and Fabian socialists, 
is the following argument by Professor John Dewey. This authority 
advocates a "dependence upon socially organized intelligence" as a 
humane substitute for class conflict : 

The curious fact is that while it is generally admitted . . . that a par- 
ticular social problem, say of the family, or railroads or banking must be 
solved, if at all, by the method of intelligence, yet there is supposed to be 
some one all-exclusive social problem which can be solved only by violence. 
This fact would be inexplicable were it not for a conclusion from dogma 
as its premise. . . . There is an undoubted objective clash of interests 
between finance capitalism . . . and idle workers and hungry customers. 
But what generates violent strife is failure to bring the conflict into the 
light of intelligence where the conflicting interests can be adjudicated in 
behalf of the interest of the great majority.^'* 

It is evident that Professor Dewey, in his analogy between a "par- 
ticular social problem" such as "banking" or the "family" and a 
political-class-conflict situation, completely misunderstands his subject. 

^Libiralism and Social Action, pp. 78—79. Sombart is outspoken in his analysis 
of this attitude. "It is assumed," he says, "that it is only ignorance on the part of 
the opponent that keeps him from accepting openly and freely this good, from 
divesting himself of his possessions and exchanging the old order for the new. The 
classic example of this childish way of viewing things is the well-known fact that 
Charles Fourier daily waited at his home, between the hours of twelve and one, 
to receive the millionaire who should bring him money for the erection of the first 
phalanstery. No one came," Op. cit., pp. 33-34. 

1 68 Caste, Class, and Race 

In other words, he has confused intraclass problems with interclass con- 
flict. Ordinarily problems of banking, or the family, or education, or 
Coolidge versus Davis, are political-party, faction problems; they do 
not involve a challenge to the political order. In political-class struggle 
intelligence is used to maneuver the opponent for a destructive blow. 
Indeed, political-class antagonisms are too highly pitched to achieve 
solution at the round table.*^ The attacking class is treasonous and 
blasphemous from the beginning. It is un-American, un-German, or 
un-English, and ungodly. It is necessarily against "Law and Order," 
against "our form of Government," and against "our way of life"; 
consequently, it cannot be free to speak its mind.*'^" 

The aim of the attacking class is not co-operation ; it does not want 
law and order, since law and order means perpetuation of the old order. 
It does not want to discuss or to negotiate problems in a conciliatory 
manner with the old rulers, for such a procedure tends to continue the 
latter's prestige. Indeed, the two groups do not have the same but con- 
trary problems. The end of the attacking class is the vanquishing not 
only of the old leaders but also of the old system itself — a problem 
which the ruling class cannot be expected to discuss. Therefore, the 
struggle for power tends to be involved with a succession of con- 
spiracies, imprisonments, and summatory conflicts, while compromise 
and appeasement may postpone but not settle the basic antagonism. 
Moreover, very much of the sanctimonious abhorrence displayed by 
the ruling class and its apologists against the use of violence in the class 

^^Robert Briflfault cites an incident in point : "At a meeting of the General Council 
of Trades Unions in 1925, Mr. F. Bramley, criticizing the attitude of the meeting, 
remarked: 'It appears to me you can discuss any other subject under the sun with- 
out getting into that panicky state of trembling fear and excitement and almost 
savage ferocity you get into when you are discussing Russian affairs. . . . You 
can discuss calmly and without excitement the operations of the Fascists in Italy; 
you can discuss with great calm the suppression of trade-unions organizations 
in other countries; you can discuss the activities of capitalist governments and their 
destruction of the trade-union movement in one country after another without this 
unnecessary epidemic of excitement. But when you begin to discuss Russia, you 
begin to suffer from some malignant disease.' " The Decline and Fall of the British 
Empire, p. 1 75. 

In this connection Harold F. Laski observes: ". . . whenever privilege is in 
danger, it flies into that panic which is the mortal enemy of reason ; and it is a waste 
of time to ask its consideration of arguments that, in another mental climate, it is 
capable of understanding." Where Do We Go from Here?, p. 164. 

*^"It is only by a recognition of this fact, for example, that we can explain the 
frantic efforts of the ruling class in the United States to silence Henry A. Wallace — 
to say nothing about thousands of lesser men. Thus, the Associated Press reported 
on June 11, 1947, that United States Representative Meyer (Rep. Kans. ) declared 
before the House that the Attorney General should indict Mr. Wallace for treason. 
And he implicated President Roosevelt as he would a foreign enemy : "Let it not be 
forgotten that this Henry Wallace is one of the heritages left us by the late Franklin 

The Political Class 169 

struggle is rooted in the desire to maintain the integrity of its class 
monopoly of violence. 

Of course the significant fact is not violence per se but rather the 
conquest of power, and no two situations will be exactly alike. If the 
trained and disciplined forces in immediate control of the instruments 
of violence become involved in the temper of a class-divided people, 
then the chances of revolution become immediate. Then, too, violence 
need not accompany revolutions in satellite countries. If, for example, 
the United States and Great Britain were to become socialist — we do 
not assume that the Labor Government has established socialism in 
England — either by force or the threat of force, we should expect, say, 
Cuba or Canada to liquidate their capitalists "peacefully." Moreover, 
we should distinguish between the democratic trend in Western society 
and the complete yielding of the capitalists. 

In political-class conflict the ruling class will always be intolerant. 
Speech is never free to be used as a threat to the reign of a political 
class. Jesus was quite conscious of this when He declared : "Behold, I 
send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes : and some of them 
ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your 
synagogues, and persecute them from city to city." "The institutions 
which are democratic in form," says Rosa Luxemburg, "are in sub- 
stance instruments of the dominant class interest. This is most obvious 
in the fact that so soon as democracy shows a disposition to deny its 
class character and to become an instrument of the real interest of the 
people, the democratic forms themselves are sacrificed."**' 

The irreconcilability of political-class antagonism is a consideration 
of primary significance for an understanding of the history of revolu- 
tion. Those who believe in the possibility of peaceful settlement of all 
political problems will not understand, for instance, the passion which 
moved the royalist Convention Parliament to unearth the putrefied 
bodies of Cromwell, Bradshaw, and Ireton and hang them in public on 
the gallows of Tyburn; they will not be struck by the summatory, 
vitriolic clashes of interest groups which, before the Civil War, rendered 
the American Congress totally impotent as an institution for averting 
political violence; they could not explain the mission of the armies of 

^^Gesammelte Werke, III, pp. 59—60; quoted by Paul M. Sweezy, op. cit., p. 251. 

The ruling class organized for struggle must obviously be negative and defensive. 
It cannot develop a rational philosophy, for it has nothing new to offer. As a 
counterrevolutionary group it must seek its rationale in the ideals of the old order. 
With its back against the wall the ruling class desires only to be left alone with its 
power; it is fighting for life, not for growth. Hence, when attacked, the ruling class 
will rely on spirituality and tradition, and because it is rationally tongue-tied, its 
physical counterblows may be all the more vicious. 

170 Caste, Class, and Race 

Great Britain, France, Japan, and the United States in Russia at the 
end of World War I ;*^ they wUl be unable to read meaning into the 
action of the Dies Committee in prosecuting Americans who had fought 
the Nazis and Fascists in Spain ; they will not see why it is very necessary 
that Harry Bridges be either deported from the United States or 
silenced in jail; and they will not know that an assurance by the Allies 
to "respect the right of all people to choose the form of government 
under which they will live" is in fact an extremely involved political 

Today, since World War II, open political-class conflict is world- 
wide, with the "great powers," on local battlegrounds, frantically feel- 
ing for each other's throat as they give support to the class antagonists 
favoring their respective class interests. The class struggle goes on vio- 
lently in China, Greece, India, Argentina, Yugoslavia, Italy, Rumania, 
Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, "the Levant"; in all these coun- 
tries, and in others, such as France, where "free elections" are held, the 
great powers are matching force, which is, in reality, a protraction of 
their own domestic class conflict. In a very real sense, for instance, the 
ruling class in the United States had been fighting its own proletarian 
revolution by supplying Sherman tanks, military service, and food to 
defeat the "communist" revolutionaries in China and in Greece. 

Rosa Luxemburg has made a significant distinction between means 
and ends and in so doing has pointed out the intent of the reformer 
and the radical. Concerning the modern class struggle, she writes: 
". . . people who pronounce themselves in favor of the method of 
legislative reform in place of and in contradistinction to the conquest of 
political power, a social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, 
calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of 
taking a stand for the establishment of a new society, they take a stand 
for surface modifications of the old society."*^ They may be thought of 
as "left fellow travelers" of the status quo. 

*^For a discussion of the nature of the "war of intervention" in Russia see Michael 
Sayers and Albert E. Kahn, The Great Conspiracy, Chap. VI. 

■'^On the diplomacy involved in the question of post- World War II political free- 
dom for smaller nations one may read the story of its progress all over his daily 
newspapers. The following news item is taken at random from this source. Says the 
United Press, May 17, 1946: "The United States has served notice on Soviet Russia 
it will fight developments of comrriunism in Japan just as vigorously as it does at 
home. It promised not to suppress communist parties in Japan, but left unsaid the 
plain warning that it will do everything short of that to discourage them. This 
political challenge to the only communist state in the world was first made by 
George R. Atcheson, Jr., top American diplomat in Tokyo. . . . This conflict, 
underlying all Big Three troubles for several years, has led many top Allied leaders 
to ask: 'Are the two systems reconcilable?' " 

^"Reform or Revolution, p. 43. In this connection Leon Trotsky observes: 
*'. . . the social democrats are ready to sanction — and that only ex post facto — 

The Political Class 171 

A political class cannot consider itself established until all effective, 
internal antagonisms are removed ; hence the need for frequent purges 
during its infancy. Without suggesting an extenuation of the ruthless 
cruelty of the German Nazis, we may illustrate our point further by 
inquiring into the sufficiency of Dr. Frederick L. Schuman's con- 
clusions. Says Schuman: 

Nazi terrorists tortured and killed literally for the subjective satisfaction, 
the inner release of tensions which these activities afford. . . . This thesis 
can be abundantly supported by a consideration of the personality struc- 
tures of many of the Nazi leaders. ^° 

It seems, however, that this approach seldom, if ever, leads to an 
appreciation of political-class action. To be sure, an examination of 
"personality structures" will help to inculpate the leadership of a 
political class, but it will not reveal the social imperatives which pro- 
duce in such situations the desperate necessity to quiet every potential 
obstruction. One class is under the necessity of vanquishing the other, 
and, in Schuman's own words: "Those who cannot be liquidated by 
propaganda must be liquidated by force."^^ 

In all significant social revolutions, organized religion will neces- 
sarily be involved. The Church and other forms of organized priest- 
craft thrive in harmony with and, on the whole, sanction the status 
quo; in other words, the Church is normally rightist; it is the most 
lethargic and inert of the institutions confronting the revolutionists, 
partly because it is essentially traditional." In fact, the Church has a 
vested interest in the status quo and it will fight in the protection of 
this. Therefore, the social system cannot be changed radically unless 
the Church is either overthrown or forcibly brought into line with the 

those overturns which hand the power to the bourgeoisie, but they implacably con- 
demn those methods which might alone bring the power to the proletariat. Under 
this pretended objectivism they conceal a policy of defense of the capitalist society." 
Op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 169. 

^Op. cit., p. 290. Says R. P. Dutt on this point: "Behind the ranting megalo- 
maniacs, bullies, drug-fiends and broken down bohemians who constitute the outer 
facade of Fascism, thfe business heads of finance-capital who pay the costs and pull 
the strings are perfectly cool, clear, and intelligent." Fascism and Social Revolution, 
P- 197- 

^Op. cit., p. 311. As Harold Laski puts it: ". . . where men differ profoundly 
upon matters of social constitution the procedure of democracy is at a discount until 
a new equilibrium of agreement has been found. If it cannot be found by consent, 
it must be imposed by force." Op. cit., p. 164. 

^Professor William Oscar Brown puts it in this way: "Religion, always and at 
all times, tends to sanction the current mores, values, ideals, practices, attitudes, and 
relationships — provided, of course, they have been established in a culture for a 
sufficient period of time." Race Prejudice, Ph.D. thesis. University of Chicago, 1930, 
p. 294. 

172 Caste, Class, and Race 

movement. In discussing the modem class struggle, Werner Sombart 
says: "One of the conditions of the very existence of the proletariat lies 
in tearing asunder all of the old points of faith."^^ 

Organized religion is never a private matter; it is inevitably political. 
In this regard, ever since the early Christians began to find their first 
converts among the slaves and common laborers of the Roman Empire, 
Christianity became an intensely political institution in the West. The 
established religion represents the ruling class, and it is "used in their 
interests." Frequently the State, God, and Society are associated in the 
minds of the people, and a blow at the State may be shifted, more or 
less, to either or both of the other two. 

The ascendant political class will invariably take advantage of the 
coincident struggle to stigmatize the radicals as God-haters.^* In actu- 
ality, however, religion as such need not be seriously involved. His- 
torically the Christian Church has labored in the interests of feudalism; 
it has defended slavery ; it is at the service of capitalism ; and we should 
expect it to accommodate to any succeeding system. Again, Sombart, in 
discussing the adaptability of Christianity to a proletarian society, ob- 
serves that Christianity "became the religion of Rome in its decadence 
and of the German tribes in the youthful freshness of their civilization, 
of feudalism as well as of those stages of civilization in which the free 
cities and later the bourgeoisie have had predominance. Then why may 
it not also be the religion of the proletariat?"®^ Religion evidently fills an 

^Op. cit., p. 160. 

"Probably Edmund Burke's stricture on the French Revolutionists illustrates this 
type of religio-political involvement as well as any. Instead of "the Religion and 
the Law," he declares, "by which they were in a great political communion with 
the Christian world, they have constructed their Republic on three bases. ... Its 
foundation is laid in Regicide, in Jacobinism and in Atheism. ... I call it Atheism 
by establishment when any State . . . shall not acknowledge the existence of God 
as a moral Governor of the world ; when it shall offer to Him no religious or moral 
worship; when it shall abolish the Christian religion by a regular decree; when 
it shall persecute with a cold, unrelenting steady cruelty, by every mode of confisca- 
tion, imprisonment, exile, and death, all its ministers; when it shall generally shut 
up, or pull down, churches; when the few buildings which remain of this kind, 
shall be open only for the purpose of making an apotheosis of monsters whose 
vices and crimes have no parallel amongst men, and whom all other men consider 
as objects of general detestation, and the severest animadversion of law. When in 
the place of that religion of social benevolence, and of individual self-denial in 
mockery of all religion, they institute impious, blasphemous, indecent theatric 
rites, in honour of their vitiated, perverted reason, and erect altars to the personi- 
fication of their own corrupted and bloody Republic; when schools and seminaries 
are founded at publick expense to poison mankind ; from generation to generation 
with the horrible maxims of this impiety; when wearied out with incessant martyr- 
doms, and the cries of a people hungering and thirsting for religion, they permit 
it, only as a tolerated evil — I call this atheism by establishment. See Burke Selected 
Works, Vol. II, ed. by E. J. Payne, pp. 70-72. 

^Op. cit., p. 163. 

The Political Class 173 

indispensable need of mankind, and society will always contrive to 
institutionalize it. The Church may be crushed beneath the grinding 
wheels of revolution, but there need be no fear that religion is likewise 
mangled in the process. 

The dominant political class will also be disposed to take advantage 
of another basic confusion, that between the State and society. Society 
in this sense will seldom be defined, but as an amorphous concept it 
will be made to include especially many deep-seated loyalties of the 
group. Love of one's country, devotion to one's family as one has come 
to know it in its social setting, and a passion for "all the things one has 
learned to love and enjoy"- — these are some of the values which may 
appeal for protection when "society" is threatened by an overthrow of 
the government. However, it need hardly be said that one may love his 
country and hate his government with equal intensity at the same time. 

The political class in power, which is apprehensive of attack, will 
countenance only one political party and one political faction. Political 
classes that are firmly entrenched may encourage a system of parties 
and party factions, for the latter never bring the economic order seri- 
ously into question. Neither the Democrats in the Southern United 
States nor the Fascists in Spain, for example, could harbor two strong 
political parties; the same, of course, is true for Russia — Russia is still 
open to political-class conflict, especially that initiated from without. 
And their methods must necessarily be ruthless. The vanquished must 
be broken in spirit as well. 

11. Facets of the Modern Political-Class Struggle 

The Problem 

political classes; there, however, we have made only sporadic 
reference to specific political-class situations. In this chapter our con- 
cern shall be to identify the modern political-class struggle in Western 
society, and in so doing we shall hope to be as simple as possible — 
perhaps too simple. At any rate, the majority of discussions on this sub- 
ject are so involved that they tend to inhibit the ordinary reader. 

Although the modern class struggle presents a problem of pre- 
eminent social significance, social scientists have given it very little at- 
tention—and evidently for good reason. John Strachey gives emphasis 
to the importance of the problem in saying : 

The death of capitalism and the substitution of another economic 
system in its place will leave not a single side of life unaltered. Religion, 
literature, art, science, the whole of the human heritage of knowledge 
will be transformed. For no aspect of human life can remain unaffected 
by a change in the way in which human life itself is maintained.^ 

But the fact that most orthodox social scientists have avoided this 
subject is itself a social trait of political-class behavior. The mere recog- 
nition of the existence of political-class conflict tends to arouse the 
displeasure of the ruling class. "The position of the scientist in both 
endowed and state tax-supported institutions depends not only in the 
long but also in the short run on the existing social order. His member- 
ship-character is in the bourgeois region, and consequently he usually 
does not even so much as mention the class struggle."" Some writers 
who see the problem more or less clearly prefer to take the road of 
Erasmus, of whom it has been said : •". . . for no idea in the world, for 

'Op. cit., p. 155. 

^J. F. Brown, Psychology and the Social Order, p. 169. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 175 

no conviction, could he be induced to place his head upon the block, 
and suffer for what he at heart knew to be true and right." 

It has been as serious as this, then, that the scholar's bread and butter 
ordinarily depends upon his avoiding the study of contemporary class 
conflict. To be sure, if he happens to be convinced that the status quo 
is right, he could speak freely.^ At any rate, the social scientist is being 
constantly criticized for closing his eyes to the tremendous human 
drama unfolding before him. For instance, Robert S. Lynd says : "It is 
no accident that ... a world of scientists who comb their fields for 
important problems for research have left the problem of the power 
organization and politics of big business so largely unexplored."* Even 
Hitler, that past master in the art of manipulating ideas for a purpose, 
warns the scholar: 

One should guard . . . against refuting things which actually exist. 
The fact that the class question is not at all one of spiritual problems as 
one would like to make us believe, especially before elections, cannot be 
denied. The class pride of a great part of our people, just like the low 
esteem of the hand laborer, is, above all, a symptom which does not come 
from the imagination of one who is moon-struck. 

But apart from this, it shows the inferior thinking ability of our so-called 
intelligentsia when just in those circles one does not understand that a 
condition which was not able to prevent the rise of . . . Marxism will 
far less be able to regain that which is lost. 

The bourgeois parties . . . will never be able to draw the proletarian 
masses to their camp, as here two worlds face each other . . . and their 
attitude towards each other can only be a fighting one.° 

^Cf. In Fact, October 29, 1945, where the whole issue is given over to a review 
of "U.S. College Professors in the Service of Fascism." 

"It is often profitable," says Professor E. B. Reuter, "in terms of salary and 
security of tenure and academic honors and advancement, to defend exploitation 
and human exploiters and to justify class as well as racial discrimination and abuse. 
And in doing so, one has nothing to lose, except his self-respect and the respect of 
decent men." "Southern Scholars and Race Relations," Phylon, Vol. VII, third 
quarter, 1946, p. 234. And yet this is not quite so, for the scholar who challenges 
the exploitative system may lose not only his position but also "the respect of 
decent men." 

*In Robert A. Brady, Business as a System of Power, p. xvi. For a discussion of 
the ways of the ruling class in America with social scientists who go against the 
grain of the status quo see Ferdinand Lundberg, America's 60 Families, pp. 388flF. 
Says Lundberg: "While the University presidents may meddle in public affairs to 
their trustees' content, and while the professors may also do likewise provided only 
that they support the status quo, especially in its more evil phases, it goes hard . . . 
with any faculty member who espouses an unorthodox point of view. . . . The 
instructors in the social sciences are taught circumspection by the mishaps of out- 
spoken colleagues. Those who remain often become, to all intents and purposes, 
social as well as academic eunuchs." Pp. 393—94. 

"^Op. cit., p. 225. Pope Pius XI, in his plan for reconstruction of the social order, 
wrote in 1931: "Society today still remains in a strained and therefore unstable 
and uncertain state, being founded on classes with contradictory interests and hence 

176 Caste, Class, and Race 

Probably not one in a hundred American college graduates majoring 
in the social sciences is equipped to understand the foregoing passage, 
far less to argue about it. To the ruling class such conditioning of the 
young is desirable ; yet the powerful forces of social change move on.^ 
And, as Werner Sombart well says : "We [need] , above all, to see that 
the [social] movement springs not out of the whim, the choice, the 
malevolence of individuals; that it is not made, but becomes."^ Our ap- 
proach to this problem, then, is from the view that it is real and worthy 
of the best efforts of students of social problems. Moreover, the social 
determinism which seems to inhere in the social processes under con- 
sideration renders it fascinating. Thus Sombart declares impressively : 

It seems to me that the first impression to be made upon anyone by 
quiet observation of the social movement must be that it is necessary and 
unavoidable. As a mountain torrent, after a thunder storm, must dash 
down into the valley according to "iron unchangeable law," so must the 
stream of social agitation pour itself onward. This is the first thing for us 
to understand, that something of great and historic importance is develop- 
ing before our eyes. . . . Probably there are some who believe that the 
social movement is merely the malicious work of a few agitators . . . 
probably there are some who naturally are forced to the false idea that 
some medicine or charm can drive away this fatal poison out of the social 
body. What a delusion! What lack of intelligence and insight as to the 
nature of all social history!® 

opposed to each other, and consequently prone to enmity and strife. . . . The 
demand and supply of labor divides men on the labor market into two classes, as 
into two camps, and the bargaining between these parties transforms the labor 
market into an arena where the two armies are engaged in combat. ... It is 
patent that in our days not alone is wealth accumulated, but immense power 
and despotic economic domination are concentrated in the hands of a few, and 
that those few are frequently found not the owners, but only the trustees and 
directors, of invested funds, who administer them at their good pleasure. . . . 
Free competition is dead, economic dictatorship has taken its place . . . the whole 
economic life has become hard, cruel and restless in a ghastly measure." See 
"Quadragesimo Anno Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pius XI," quoted in Walter 
C. Langsam, Documents and Readings in the History of Europe since 1918, pp. 

"Even when your.g Americans are called upon to give their lives for a cause which 
fundamentally involves the class struggle, they must ordinarily do so without under- 
standing its nature. Roy R. Grinker and John P. Spiegel, psychiatrists of consider- 
able experience with the Army Air Forces, observe: "The average soldier is not 
well informed as to the final causes for the War or its ultimate necessity. . . . 
When the combat soldier overseas is asked what he is fighting for, the usual 
answer is short and pointed: 'So I can go home!' " Men under Stress, p. 181. 

'Op. cit., p. 5. 

®Ibid., pp. 169-70. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 177 

The Ruling Class 

There are few social concepts more elusive than that of a ruling 
political class; and in capitalist society this is particularly so. The 
concept is likely to be identified with the idea of military power, with 
that of political office, or with that of mere wealth. Alexis de Tocque- 
ville, in a sort of doctrinal echo of Aristotle, even thinks that in a 
"democracy" the government is controlled by the poor.^ In locating the 
ruling class, however, it is necessary to rely upon two criteria : material 
interest and conscious political sympathy. The material interest of the 
individual in the system of production gives him his potential class 
affiliation, and his conscious sympathies bom of class antagonism com- 
plete him as an active affiliate. In a capitalist society, the economic sys- 
tem, as is well known, is run by businessmen principally for their 
benefit; free workers are exploited for profit. 

Roughly, then, businessmen constitute our ruling class. ^'^ Yet, obvious 
as it might seem, it is not ordinarily recognized that this ruling class has 
only recently achieved its power through bitter and bloody struggle 
with another ruling class. The present ruling class, which is so eager to 
identify its pattern of society with God, was at one time held in little 
respect by the landed ruling class. Members of our current ruling class 
were called "common," "ignoble," "ungentle," "bourgeois." Indeed, 
its members themselves had a low estimate of their position. The rich- 
est of them frequently married into the nobility and tried to forget their 
past in the city, and at one time the priests, at a price, listened to their 
dying confessions of mortal sin for their taking interest and making 
profits after the fashion of good businessmen. "No one would have 
dreamed in the Middle Ages that the despised creed of the trader and 
the money lender — a creed of selfishness and worship of the then lowest 

Thus he writes: "Whenever universal suffrage has been established, the majority 
of the community unquestionably exercises the legislative authority; and if it be 
proved that the poor always constitute a majority, it may be added with perfect 
truth, that in the countries in which they possess the elective franchise, they possess 
the sole power of making laws. But it is certain that in all the nations of the world 
the greater number has always consisted of those persons who hold no property, or 
of those whose property is insufficient to exempt them from the necessity of work- 
ing. . . . Universal suffrage does therefore in point of fact invest the poor with 
the government of society." Democracy in America, 3d ed., Vol. II, p. 23. It is the 
same kind of conclusion which Aristotle draws for another democratic situation: 
". . . in a democracy the poor ought to have more power than the rich, as being 
the greater number." Politics, trans, by William Ellis, p. 185. 

"For a most convincing study of the determining role of big businessmen in the 
government and political life of the United States, see Ferdinand Lundberg, op. cit. 

178 Caste, Class, and Race 

material values — should rise to be a compendium of everything most 
respectable in temporal affairs. "^^ 

However, economic power gradually shifted into the hands of the 
businessmen.^" And as the dominant ways of trade and production con- 
tinued to change, these capitalists began to recognize that they were 
being exploited or, more particularly, inhibited by the social system of 
the landlord ruling class. The laws were against them ; the Church was 
against them; they had inferior social prestige; and yet they were be- 
coming richer and more influential. To be sure, they realized the 
futility of merely asking the landed ruling class to reorganize the society 
so that businessmen in the city, who had come to control economic 
production, could take the helm and run the system in their own inter- 
est. Consequently, as a way out and sometimes unconsciously, they en- 
couraged the development of a number of philosophers, writers, 
journalists, and propagandists, who undermined the morale of the 
people who supported the ruling class ; and finally, in open battle, they 
chopped the leaders of the feudal order to pieces. 

Then the business people, the bourgeoisie, freely fashioned laws and 
otherwise adjusted the society to suit their convenience. It would be a 
very great mistake to think that these revolutions, of which the French 
Revolution is the classic, were fought in the interest of the working 
people, either skilled or unskilled. As John Strachey puts it: "The 
liberty which had been established in eighteenth-century England was 
a liberty for the big merchants, the great land owners, and the trading 
aristocrats. They and they alone possessed the freedom of the market."^^ 

"Thurman W. Arnold, The Folklore of Capitalism, p. 38. 

^Speaking of the growth of classes in urban centers of the fifteenth century. 
Prosper Boissonnade concludes: "At the top appeared a growing minority of 
bourgeois capitalists; in the middle developed the small or medium bourgeoisie of 
masters, who formed the free crafts and corporations; below were the workmen, 
who were slowly becoming separated from the class of small masters; and at the 
bottom of all came the hired wage-earners of the great industry, reinforced by 
casual elements, who formed the new urban proletariat." Op. cit., p. 299. 

^^Op. cit, p. 26. Strachey continues: "The members of the middle class, having 
destroyed the feudal monopolists, became themselves the exclusive owners of the 
means of production: they became, in fact, the capitalist class as we know it today." 
Ibid., p. 49. 

Sombart dilates upon this point: "Those historic occurrences in which the pro- 
letariat played a role, although they were not proletarian movements, are the well- 
known revolutions which we connect with the years 1789, 1793, 1839, 1832, 1842. 
. . . We have here movements which are essentially middle-class. In them political 
liberties are sought, and, so far as the proletarian elements are concerned, the 
masses fight the battles of the middle classes, like the common soldiers who fought 
in feudal armies. . . . The revolution of 1789 was purely a middle-class move- 
ment, and indeed carried on by the higher part of the middle class. It was a 
struggle of the upper middle class for the recognition of its rights, and for relief 
from the privileges of the ruling class of society — from the fetters in which it had 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 179 

An illusion concerning the rule of this capitalist class lies in the fact 
that its laws are literally objective ; power has been apparently given to 
things instead of to men. "The sacredness of private property" is the 
key concept. The bourgeois state is "first and foremost the protector of 
private property" ; therefore, the owners of property, "accumulated on 
their own initiative," have power to set the machinery of the State in 
motion. The working class does not govern ; it merely supports a form 
of government that has been already established in the interest of a rul- 
ing political class. The ultimate power in this system is in the hands of 
the great capitalist financers." 

Capitalist Production and the Proletariat 

Capitalism is a social system based upon free enterprise and upon 
production, by means of large quantities of capital goods, for private 
profit. The State is set up to administer and to defend this system.^^ 
The capitalist State is not a spiritual product ; its function, from its in- 
ception in the medieval town, has always been primarily to secure the 
interest of a certain class. The intimate relationship of this interest and 
the State is not readily apparent, for the laws, the customs, the way of 
life of the society will ordinarily be thought of in its totality as a product 
of all members of society. Indeed, the individual is so much a part of 

been held by feudal powers. It expressed this struggle in demands for equality and 
freedom, but it really meant from the very start a limited equality and freedom." 
Op. cit., pp. 38-39. 

Henri Pirenne is also explicit on this point. "Everywhere," he writes, "it was the 
merchants who took the initiative and directed events. . . . They were the most 
active, the richest, the most influential element in the city population and they 
endured with so much the more impatience a situation which clashed with their 
interest and belittled their confidence in themselves. The role they then played . . . 
may fittingly be compared with that which the capitalistic middle class assumed 
after the end of the eighteenth century in the political revolution which put an end 
to the old order of things. In the one case as in the other, the social group which 
was the most directly interested in the change assumed the leadership of the oppo- 
sition, and was followed by the masses. Democracy in the middle ages, as in modern 
times, got its start under the guidance of a select few who foisted their program 
upon the confused aspirations of the people." Medieval Cities, trans, by Frank D. 
Halsey, p. 1 78. 

^Tor a good discussion of this, see Robert A. Brady, op. cit. We should guard 
against the illusion in which advocates of the status quo frequently become in- 
volved. In illustration William Graham Sumner declares: "Modern society is ruled 
by the middle class. In honor of the bourgeoisie it must be said that they . . . have 
not . . . made a state for themselves alone or chiefly, and their state is the only one 
in which no class has had to fear oppressive use of political power." Folkways, 
p. 169. Clearly, Sumner confuses the medieval idea of the bourgeoisie as a middle 
class in feudal society with the concept of the bourgeoisie as a ruling class in 
bourgeois society. Furthermore, the illusion of the social effects of overwhelming 
power has evidently blinded him to the means by which the bourgeoisie rule. 

^^Of course, the greater the advancement of democracy, the less will the system 
operate exclusively in the interest of the ruling capitalist class. 

i8o Caste, Class, and Race 

his society that he is seldom able to conceive of any other system in 
terms other than variants of his own. At any rate, capitalism is sup- 
ported not only by the owners of capital goods, who produce for a 
profit, but also by a distinct class of free workers. 

Before capitalism can take root workers must be proletarianized. 
The proletarianization of workers may be thought of as the "com- 
moditization" of their capacity to labor; that is to say, the transforma- 
tion of the major human element in production into a mass of persons 
mainly dependent for their means of subsistence upon the vicissitudes 
of a labor market. In this way labor is freed — indeed, as mercilessly 
freed as an inanimate commodity. 

This working class should not be thought of simply as poor people or 
as miserable people; they are a class of people peculiar to a capitalist 
system of production. Their plane of living is, on the whole, very much 
higher than that of the hand workers under feudalism. To repeat, we 
must look for this class of workers only in a capitalist society. The 
proletariat does not exist in feudal societies; it is unknown in the caste 
system. The labor-market system, Charles Gide observes, "only becomes 
general with the modem capitalistic organization of industry, and may 
possibly disappear along with it."^® The proletariat, to mention again 
the well-known fact, is a class of freed workers, freed from the land 
and freed from the ownership of the means of production. It sells its 
services in a "free" market to entrepreneurs, and its product becomes a 
commodity. The largest possible human interest which profit makers 
can have in workers is interest in their efficiency. As Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., 
Chairman of General Motors, says, "Increased efficiency means lower 
costs, lower selling prices, and expanded production" ;^^ and, we may 
add, especially greater profits. 

The capitalist system "has as a necessary presumption the rending 
of all society into two classes : the owners of the means of production, 
and the personal factors in production. Thus the existence of capital- 
ism is the necessary preliminary condition of the proletariat."^^ Capital- 

^"Political Economy, pp. 572—73. 

^^"Post-War Jobs," an address at the opening Fall Session of the Economic Club 
of Detroit, Oct. 11, 1943. 

^^Werner Sombart, op. cit., p. 9. On this point also Strachey says: "The very 
idea that it might be impossible to establish industry and commerce, not because 
of any technical reasons, but because no workers would respond to the offers of 
wages, does not occur to people. . . . Two essential conditions had to be secured 
before any such class of people, both able and ready to sell their power to labor, 
can exist. In the first place, all forms of slavery, serfdom, peonage, and villeinage 
must be abolished. For if the mass of the population belongs to certain overlords 
and landlords as their exclusive private property, it is no use for the enterprising 
entrepreneur to offer them wages in order to induce them to come and work for 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle i8i 

ism tends to objectify the productive capacity of both the capitalists 
and the workers. The human element in production, zs we have seen, 
is divided essentially into two camps: that of "entrepreneurship" and 
that of labor; and the divergence in interests of these two positions in- 
creases as labor refuses to be freely manipulated in the interests of 

On the surface it might seem that these two classes in modern society 
have been selected from a complex system of classes in order to gain a 
point. Certainly, one is likely to think, there are other possible group- 
ings besides those of workers and capitalists. But here again one must 
distinguish carefully between functional classes and political classes. ^^ 
There were many functional classes in western Europe in the middle 
of the eighteenth century, but only two significant political classes : the 
capitalists and the feudalists. Today the proletariat has become pivotal 
in the production system, but the latter functions mainly in the interest 
of the capitalists; and therein lies the source of dissatisfaction. The pro- 
fessional groups in the system do not form a political class; they tend to 
unite themselves by birth or position to one or another of the two 
primary political classes. The functional classes constitute a part of the 
"public" of the two political classes. It is in the latter sense that Pro- 
fessor A. N. Holcombe plans a program for "the middle class" that 
would serve to throw its weight as a "public" on the side of the ruling 

him. . . . Such condition of legal dependence must therefore be broken down. The 
establishment of the labor market . . . requires not only that the workers should be 
free — that they should not be possessed by any overlord or master — but also that 
they should neither possess nor have free access to the means of production. In 
other words, when the middle class freed the workers from the landlords they had 
to, and did, take very good care to free them from the land as well." Op. cit., pp. 
40—41. See also Charles Gide, Principles of Political Economy, trans, by Edward P. 
Jacobsen, p. 146. 

In discussing the ways of the capitalists as they operate today on the outer rim 
of Western society, Professor Mary E. Townsend says: "Most of the colonial powers 
have ruthlessly deprived the native of his land and then, ironically enough, forced 
him to work upon it by making it impossible for him to live otherwise." European 
Colonial Expansion since 18/ 1, p. 194. 

^"Alfred M. Bingham evinces some misunderstanding of the nature of political 
classes. He says: "There are in fact many class struggles, for there are many classes. 
One may define classes arbitrarily as one will. One may classify as to sex, nationality, 
occupation, intelligence, or attitude. If, as the Marxists do, one chooses to classify 
as to general economic status in relation to means of production — that is, workers 
and owners — one must accept the limitations of such a classification. It is rough, 
vague, and bears no necessary relation to mental attitudes or political effectiveness. 
There may, under certain conditions, be as bitter conflict between groups of 
capitalists, over world markets, for instance, or between groups of workers . . . 
as ever between employers and workers." Insurgent America, p. 16. To Bingham, 
apparently, a political class is one item of a promiscuous social classification. 

^The New Party Politics. 

1 82 Caste, Class, and Race 

Causes of Proletarian Unrest 

A very common approach to the study of modern class conflict is 
that, based on the assumption that since the masses are economically 
better off today than they ever were in history, class antagonism is 
mostly fictional. This approach inevitably leads to an argument cen- 
tered about what has been called indelicately the "fuU-belly hypothesis" 
of socialism, and of course it can seldom attain the view that dissatisfac- 
tion with the social system itself may arise. The leaders of the prole- 
tariat look ahead to a better form of social organization, while the 
ruling class and its sympathizers tend to look backward and to com- 
pare instances of worse conditions of workers."^ Professor Maynard 
Krueger's characterization of the capitalist system tends to put this 
view of the study of the social movement into perspective: 

The private profit system has not been able to provide either social 
security of a satisfactory sort or full employment of either men or resources. 
The private profit system produces the wrong kind of people. It conditions 
people; it teaches people to be predatory; it puts the emphasis on and it 
nurses and encourages the worst aspect of what is called "human nature" 
— the calculating kind of selfishness and acquisitiveness which gets in the 
way of the kind of life that we ought to be able to lead. It puts entirely 
too many people in a position where they are kicked around by private 
economic dictators. ... It produces a few people with fantastic economic 
fortunes who exercise terrific political power and power over the agencies 
of public opinion. With all, it seems to me that it warps and corrupts the 
minds and souls of people and all their institutions.-- 

The relationship of the misery of a subordinate social class and revo- 
lution calls for a few words. We may state broadly that social misery 
of itself never breeds revolution; in fact, it is not improbable that the 
greater the misery of a social class the less the likelihood of its revolting. 
In Brahmanic India, for instance, we should expect that the outcastes 
will be the last to entertain revolutionary ideas. The serfs and slaves of 
feudalism never planned a revolution — a movement directed toward 
the institution of a new social system. "In reality," says Leon Trotsky 
with respect to proletarian revolutions, "the mere existence of priva- 

"See a recent propagandistic work taking this position: Carl Snyder, Capitalism 
the Creator, p. 1 1. 

~The University of Chicago Round Table, No. 228, September 26, 1943, p. 15. 
This does not mean to say, however, that socialism is simply a sentimental or moral 
movement. "What socialism really means," says John Strachey, "is giving nine- 
tenths of us a chance to get at least ten times as much individual, private property — 
ten times as much clothing, houses, gardens, motor-cars, supplies of food, furniture, 
and the like as we ever get today." Socialism Looks Forwards p. 102. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 183 

tions is not enough to cause an insurrection ; if it were, the masses would 
be always in revolt. It is necessary that the bankruptcy of the social 
regime, being conclusively revealed, should make these privations in- 
tolerable, and that new conditions and new ideas should open the 
prospect of a revolutionary way out. Then in the cause of the great 
aims conceived by them, those same masses will prove capable of endur- 
ing doubled and tripled privations.'-''^ Thus it is only when a class 
comes to feel that it has power to insist upon superior rights that it 
thinks of revolt. De Tocqueville puts it interestingly : 

As the noble never suspected that anyone would attempt to deprive him 
of the privilege which he believed to be legitimate, and as the serf looked 
upon his own inferiority as a consequence of the immutable order of 
nature, it is easy to imagine that mutual exchange of good will took place 
between two classes so differently gifted by fate. Inequality and wretched- 
ness were then to be found in society; but the souls of neither rank of 
men were degraded. 

Men are not corrupted by the exercise of power or debased by the 
habit of obedience; but by the exercise of a power which they believe to 
be illegal, and by obedience to a rule which they consider to be usurped 
and oppressive.^* 

The bourgeoisie who instigated and fought the capitalist revolutions 
were clearly not the most degraded and miserable part of the popula- 
tion; they were simply the most dissatisfied and the most powerful 
subordinate class. Their wails of misery, oppression, tyranny, and suffer- 
ing were largely a function of their own inflated conception of them- 
selves. Says Strachey: "The British middle class felt itself equal to the 
task. It was just because they were growing richer and stronger, and 
yet were given no increased share of power, that the English middle 
classes rebelled . . . classes do not rebel only because they are starv- 
ing . . . yet it is such growing disproportions as these between the 
real strength of a class and the amount of political power which is al- 
lotted to it which cause those redistributions of power between sections 
of the community."-^ 

^Op. cit., Vol. II, p. xi. It may not be inaccurate to assert that most of the 
desperate effort of Great Britain and the United States especially to "feed the 
hungry" in post-World War Europe is prompted not by merciful charity but rather 
by the frightful consciousness that the people, left to themselves, may rise, over- 
throw the capitalist ruling class, and establish a welfare economy. It is in this sense 
that American food has been used as a counterrevolutionary weapon. It is not so 
much the "feeding of the hungry millions" as it is a strategy of food distribution 
which serves the political purpose. For an indication of this as practiced after the 
World War I, see Sayers and Kahn, op. rit., pp. 86-87. 

^Op. cit.. Vol. I, p. XX. 

^Op. cit., p. 2 1. To the same eflfect Hans Kohn observes: "The American colonies 
revolted not because they were oppressed, but because they were free and their 

184 Caste, Class, and Race 

In some measure it is not the misery of poverty but rather the misery 
of invidious comparison which renders the workers dissatisfied. Werner 
Sombart recognizes this clearly : 

It is much more characteristic that in the moment when great masses 
sink into misery, upon the other side shining like a fairy's creation, the 
millionaire arises. It is the contrast between the comfortable villa and 
elegant equipage of the rich, the magnificent stores, the luxurious res- 
taurants which the workman passes as he goes on his way to his manu- 
factory or workshop in the dreary part of the city; it is the contrast in 
conditions which develops hate in the masses. And that, again, is a 
peculiarity of the modern system, that it develops this hate and permits 
hate to become envy. It seems to me that this happens for the reason that 
those who display this grandeur are no longer the churches or the princes; 
but that they are those very persons on whom the masses feel themselves 
dependent, in whose direct economic control they see themselves, in whom 
they recognize their so-called "exploiters." This definite modern contrast 
is that which principally excites the intensity of this feeling of hate in the 

A more tangible source of proletariat discontent, however, is the 
economic uncertainty of the profit system — its anarchy. Basically, the 
system has little regard for human beings as such; it is practical and 
mechanistic. So far as the proletariat is concerned, the system is inter- 
ested in the productivity of its labor and not in its welfare. In capitalistic 
production labor is included in the same impersonal accounting as 
natural resources and capital, a fact which ordinarily brings home to the 
worker a fearful sense of being cut adrift in a sea of anonymity to eat 
and especially to be eaten as opportunity arises. Moreover, in the very 
nature of good business practice the profit maker cannot be satisfied. 

Unemployment has become endemic in the capitalist system. Yet it is 
not so much the fact of unemployment as a recognition that unemploy- 
ment is a function of the profit motive, which has the potentiality of 

freedom carried the promise of still greater freedom, one unrealizable in the more 
settled and static conditions of the old society." The Idea of Nationalism, p. 272. 
But see Frederick L. Nussbaum, op. cit., pp. 248—54, for some "limiting conditions 
of early capitalism." 

^"Op. cit., pp. 10— II. And that great advocate of democracy, De Tocqueville, 
admits: "It cannot be denied that democratic institutions have a very strong 
tendency to promote the feeling of envy in the human heart; not so much because 
they afford to every one the means of rising to the level of any of his fellow-citizens, 
as because those means perpetually disappoint the persons who employ them. 
Democratic institutions awaken and foster a passion for equality which they can 
never entirely satisfy. This complete equality eludes the grasp of the people at the 
very moment at which it thinks to hold fast. . . . The lower orders are agitated by 
the chance of success, they are irritated by its uncertainty; and they pass from the 
enthusiasm of pursuit to the exhaustion of ill-success, and lastly to the acrimony of 
disappointment." Op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 4-5. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 185 

galling the worker. This is especially true in times of business-cycle 
troughs. The hard times of old, the famines, were recognized to be acts 
of God. Beyond a probable magical interpretation no one could be held 
blamable for them. But the great modern economic debacles, the busi- 
ness depressions, are recognized as inevitable consequences of capital- 
ism. These cannot be prevented while private profit remains the 
supreme goal of the economic order. Lewis Corey expresses a common 
attitude on this major failing of capitalism : 

These recurrent breakdowns of prosperity are a typical, damnable 
spectacle of capitalist civifization. Men, women, and children starve or 
agonizingly approach starvation while wheat and corn rot, vegetables 
perish, milk and cofTee are destroyed. The wheels of industry slow down 
while millions of workers eager to work are condemned to unemployment. 
Wants go unsatisfied on an enormous and oppressive scale, although all 
the means exist to satisfy the wants. . . . This monstrous state of affairs 
was unknown to the people of pre-capitalist civilizations : they knew want 
as a result of scarcity, natural calamity, or war, and the torment of labor 
lay in its severity. Capitalist civilization introduced a new form of want, 
want in the midst of abundance; a new torment of labor, torment of 
workers deprived of work while there is an abundance of the means and 
objectives of working. Our ancestors would have considered the situation 
idiotic; it is considered idiotic today by the non-capitalist, developing 
socialist civilization of the Soviet Union. -^ 

Thus there is a double cause for irritation among the workers. They 
suffer privation and degeneracy at a time when the markets are glutted 
with goods. A depression is the opposite of a famine. During a famine 
there are practically no goods, but during a depression there is a 
plethora of goods. It is the abundance of goods which jams the profit 
system and causes the entrepreneur to shut down his machinery and 
turn out the workers to starve. "There must be something funda- 
mentally wrong with our economic system," says Lloyd George, "be- 
cause abundance produces scarcity.""^ Indeed, capitalism has a limited 
capacity for prosperity. For instance, a foreign country which sends a 
capitalist country very much cheap or even free goods merely "dumps" 
them upon the latter with probable disastrous results. 

The system, of course, having been organized in the interest of profit 
makers, cannot be particularly concerned with the workers' plight. The 
workers must wait until the large stocks of goods work themselves down 
either by gradual consumption, decay, and waste, or by their purpose- 

^Op. cit., pp. 12-13. 

^Report of speech at Cambridge in Manchester Guardian Weekly, April 7, 1933; 
quoted by R. P. Dutt, op. cit., p. 34. 

1 86 Caste, Class, and Race 

ful destruction. Then and only then can the owners of the means of 
production again give the word to rehire labor and start producing. 
Thus the process of building up stocks to another glut is on its way. 
Under capitalism, the more economic goods we have, the grea .er the 
likelihood of a famine among the masses. 

But discontent with the periodic crises of the profit system becomes 
increasingly aggravated as it becomes more and more obvious that 
capitalism offers only war as a solution. During the last century depres- 
sions frequently corrected themselves; since about 19 14, however, 
capitalism has lost its power to shake off the malady; "it only passes 
from one state of crisis to another." As Fenner Brockway puts it typ- 
ically, "Capitalism offers us two futures, both disastrous to the human 
race — either war or economic collapse. It holds out no other hope.""^ 
Therefore, the conviction is not only that the system has reached its 
stage of continuing morbidity, but also that it is a vicious diseconomy 
for modem society to entrust its machinery and technology to capital- 
ism. At the heart of the system a comparatively few rich businessmen 
in fierce financial maneuvering among themselves run the society and 
the lives of the people, utilizing with equal abandon both natural and 
human resources, according to the dictates of their own private interest 
and profit. 

One point of confusion to the worker is the inevitable definition 
which capitalism gives to his services — that of a commodity. "When 
once a labor market has been established, the ability of men to work 
is also turned into a commodity. For it is the distinguishing character- 
istic of a labor market that in it people's power to work is bought and 
sold by the hour, day, or week."^° Paul M. Sweezy points out the likeli- 
hood of workers' misunderstanding freedom of the market for personal 
freedom: "The world of commodities appears as a world of equals. 

^Workers' Front, p. 1 1. And in an explanation of data on social trends, Sir Wil- 
liam H. Beveridge says: "The figures cited are only a statistical presentation of what 
has now become a commonplace: that the only sovereign remedy yet discovered by 
the democracies for unemployment is total war." Full Employment in a Free 
Society, p. 112. One palliative is the making of international loans as a sort of pre- 
text for gifts, which tend to have somewhat of the same effect on the capitalist econ- 
omy as investment in war materials. 

J. A. Hobson puts it thus : "Capitalism no doubt favors expenditure on armaments 
as a profitable business proposition. But it needs armaments because it needs war. 
War is a profitable business policy. Its distructiveness is the other way out of the 
plethora of peaceful productivity. If foreign markets do not expand fast enough 
to take off the surplus of capitalist production, an era of destructive waste is the 
only acceptable alternative. ... In other words, a periodic blood-letting seems re- 
quired as a treatment for an economic plethora." Democracy and a Changing 
Civilization, p. 54. 

^John Strachey, op. cit., p. 39. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 187 

The labor power of the worker is alienated from the worker and stands 
opposed to him as any commodity to its owner."^^ 

But the shortcomings of capitalism are only one aspect of the develop- 
ment of proletariat discontent. The other two are the proletariat's 
acquisition of increasing power and its increasing recognition that an 
economic order which admits of planning in the interest of the people 
is an immediate possibility. Capitalism abhors planning; to attempt to 
introduce it is to precipitate conflict. 

Never before in history has a cultural situation developed wherein 
the burden of producing a social revolution devolves upon the base of 
the population. In overthrowing feudalism, for instance, the bour- 
geoisie, a rival ruling class, fought for themselves in the name of the 
masses, but until capitalism created the opportunity the masses had 
never fought for themselves in their own interest.^" 

The current class struggle is an inherent attribute of capitalism ;^^ 
and this makes it characteristically different from all previous class con- 
flicts. In Brahmanic India the priests wrested power from the military 
class, but there is no necessary conflict between priests and warriors in 
society. Whenever a bourgeois people gain a foothold in a feudalistic 
or prefeudalistic society, there will be class conflict; yet feudalism of 
itself does not produce a bourgeois class. On the other hand, the 
proletariat is not only a potential or active political class ; it is also an 
inevitable product of capitalism. Indeed, the capitalists and the prole- 
tariat are twin-bom of the same economic matrix, capitalism; there- 
fore, the challenging proletariat is not the offspring of a distinct change 
in the mode of production as was the case with the rise of the Euro- 
pean "middle class." 

To put it in other words, feudal systems do not evolve "naturally" 

^Op. cit., p. 39. For a broad discussion of similar sources of discontent, see 
Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, pp. 123-35. 

'"See P. Boissonnade, op. cit., pp. 299—315, for a review of early proletarian un- 
rest. A slave uprising, of course, should not be thought of as a revolutionary struggle. 

^On this point what N. S. B. Gras has to say seems to be pertinent: "So long 
as the handicraftsman was free to sell to any merchant, and so long as he was the 
owner of his raw materials and tools and commanded a profit (rather than a 
wage) from his enterprise, little could be said against the new system. But when 
in the early modern period industrial entrepreneurs arose who reduced the handi- 
craftman to economic dependence, the new system stood condemned first by the 
sufferers and later by the general public. For industry^, the change from retail to 
wholesale handicraft meant specialization in function, the separation of industrial 
from commercial capital, a larger supply of goods, and greater skill. It also was 
the beginning of the subordination of the workers and their exploitation. Revolts 
and civic turmoil in the larger industrial towns of the Middle Ages were signs of 
the slowly developing system of wholesale handicraft." "The Economic Activity of 
Towns," in The Legacy of the Middle Ages, p. 438, C. G. Crump and E. F. 
Jacob, eds. 

1 88 Caste, Class, and Race 

into capitalism; feudalism contains no necessary internal social an- 
tagonisms; it may persist indefinitely without necessarily transforming 
itself into anything else. But capitalism, especially industrial capital- 
ism, because of its inevitable dialectical development, its internal con- 
tradictions, is unstable and will sooner or later resolve itself into a more 
permanent system. The bourgeois class had a sort of exterior, parasitic 
growth which finally strangled feudalism, but the proletariat has 
developed within the very heart of capitalism, which it now threatens, 
at least in its ideological leadership, to slough off. 

Moreover, the greater the advancement of capitalism, the greater 
the relative potential power of the proletariat. Hence capitalist society 
nurtures the very political class that is necessarily devoted to the de- 
struction of capitalism. This is the idea of social determinism in modem 
political-class conflict. 


There is considerable difference of opinion among even scholars 
concerning the characteristics of the fascists as the organization of a 
political class. Sometimes the conflict of views is purposely induced by 
the ruling class itself. Ordinarily, in the capitalist democracies, the 
people are made to believe that the fascists are a foreign tribe, while in 
the fascist countries the people are taught to believe that fascism is 
developed in the interest of the masses. At any rate, the first error to 
guard against appears to be that of thinking of fascists and potential 
fascists as unsocial, degenerate people — gangsters ; indeed, the very op- 
posite of this is nearer the truth. 

Those persons in a capitalist society who finally organize in an active 
fascist party are mainly the most respectable and respected people. 
They are the undeniably loo-per-cent German, or English, or Amer- 
ican, or Spanish citizens. The fascist party and its sympathizers would 
ordinarily include the majority of men who have achieved great busi- 
ness success, of politicians of upper chambers, professional men of the 
highest order, distinguished scholars, eminent bishops and cardinals, 
the most powerful newspaper owners and editors, learned judges, the 
valiant upper crust of the military forces, and so on.^* And this is quite 

^Robert A. Brady lists the following as the principal groups constituting the 
European fascists: "The die-hard landed aristocracy; the industrial, commercial, 
and financial barony; the old privileged and caste-like military hierarchy; the 
professional and imperial-minded upper reaches of the civil service bureaucracy, 
and the ruling cliques of the fanatical and cynical party demagoguery which has 
been ambidextrous enough to conjure — out of the witless frustrations of the still 
leaderless unemployed and growing ranks of the declassed rural and urban lumpen- 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 189 

natural since fascism is a rightist, conservative, capitalist reaction. The 
fascists constitute essentially the cream of a capitalist society. Adolf 
Hitler,^^ the great leader and spokesman of the fascists in all capitalist 
countries, expressed their conviction: "A view of life which, by reject- 
ing the democratic mass idea, endeavors to give the world to the best 
people ... to the most superior men, has logically to obey the same 
aristocratic principle also within this people."^" Therefore, to locate this 
group that is now attempting to stabilize its inheritance of the earth we 
must look about the pinnacle of capitalism. 

The fascists are the capitalists and their sympathizers who have 
achieved political-class consciousness; they have become organized for 
action against the proletariat, and especially for defense against the 
normal disintegration of the capitalist system. They despise the masses, 
conceding them neither capacity to think nor to develop their own 
leadership. Fascism, according to Hitler, "has to start from the prin- 
ciple that for humanity blessing has never lain in the masses, but in its 
creative heads who therefore . . . have to be looked upon as the 
benefactors of mankind. . . . Certainly, this interest is not satisfied 
and is not served by the rule of the masses who are either unable to 
think or are inefficient, in any case not inspired."^^ 

Nothing arouses the antagonism of the organized capitalists so com- 
pletely as visions of progress in the Russian proletarian society. 

We must never forget [Hitler warns again] that the regents of present- 
day Russia are common bloodstained criminals; that here is the scum of 
humanity which, favored by conditions in a tragic hour, overran a great 
state, butchered and rooted out millions of its leading intellects with 
savage bloodthirstiness and for nearly ten years has exercised the most 
frightful regime of tyranny of all timc.^^ 

bourgeoisie — a mass following." See his book review in Science and Society, Vol. 
VII, No. 2, Spring, 1943, p. 175. See also George Seldes, Facts and Fascism, New 
York, 1943. 

In the modern class struggle, as we have alluded to in a previous section, the 
fascists always seek the allegiance of the "middle class." This is the "public" for 
whose well-being the capitalists always seem to have an inordinate solicitude. In 
The New Party Politics, A. N. Holcombe develops the thesis that the bourgeoisie 
can stabilize their position by winning and maintaining the good will of these 
adjuvant functionaries of capitalism. In practice fascism has been able to appeal 
with considerable success to the "middle class." 

"^For a discussion of the use of demagogues by the ruling class, see Daniel Guerin, 
op. cit., Chap. VI, "The Rise and Fall of the Fascist Plebeians." 

™Op. cit., p. 661. 

'Tbid., p. 665. 

"^Ibid., p. 959. In 1790, during the great bourgeois revolution, Edmund Burke, 
more responsible but similarly motivated, declared in the British House of Com- 
mons: "The French have shown themselves to be the ablest architects of ruin that 
have hitherto existed in the world. In that very short space of time they have com- 

I go Caste, Class, and Race 

This is the nature of the political-class conflict between the fascists 
and the proletariat. And the former have shown both at home and 
abroad that they themselves are no novices at butchery. With respect 
to the German proletariat, the Leader vowed: "On the day when 
Marxism is smashed in Germany, its chains will really be broken for- 
ever" f^ and then he proceeded to smash it with an iron fist, only, how- 
ever, to find the pieces still menacingly animated. 

Fascism is outspokenly anti-democratic ; its reactionary nature makes 
this inevitable. Although capitalist democracy never meant that the 
masses should rim the government, the idea of political democracy it- 
self increasingly opened the way for some obstruction to the dominant 
purpose of the capitalists. Business may endure political democracy but 
not economic democracy. Robert S. Lynd has this to say on the point: 

Liberal democracy has never dared face the fact that industrial capi- 
talism is an intensely coercive form of organization of society that cumu- 
latively constrains men and all of their institutions to work the will of the 
minority who hold and wield economic power; and that this relentless 
warping of men's lives and forms of association becomes less and less the 
result of voluntary decisions by "bad" or "good" men and more and more 
an impersonal web of coercions dictated by the need to keep "the system" 
running. *° 

The purpose of capitalist democracy is to provide a favorable situ- 
ation for the exercise of free enterprise and not for the planning of a 
society that will make business a social service. If the commonality at- 
tempts to take the latter view of democracy and to implement it, the 
capitalist will quickly scrap the institution. As John Strachey observes : 

The retention of "lower by the rapitalist class by means of the success 
of a fascist party necessarily implies 'e scrapping of all democratic institu- 

pletely pulled down to the ground their monarch, their church, their nobility, their 
law, their revenue, their army, their navy, their commerce, their arts and their 
manufactures. . . . Were we absolute conquerors, and France to lie prostrate at our 
feet, we should be ashamed to send a commission to settle their affairs, which could 
impose so hard a law upon the French, and so destructive of all their consequences 
as a nation, as that they had imposed upon themselves. . . . 

"Our present danger from the example of a people whose character knows no 
medium, is, with regard to government, a danger from anarchy; a danger from 
being led through an admiration of successful fraud and violence, to an imitation 
of the excesses of an irrational, unprincipled, proscribing, confiscating, plundering, 
ferocious, bloody, and tyrannical democracy. On the side of religion, the danger 
of their example is no longer from intolerance, but from atheism; a foul, unnatural 
vice, foe to all the dignity and consolation of mankind ; which seems in France . . . 
to have been embodied into a faction, accredited and almost avowed." See The 
Parliamentary History of England, 1789-91, Vol. XXVIII, pp. 354-55. 

^Adolf Hitler, op. cit., p. 987. 

*°In Robert A. Brady, op. cit., p. xii. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 191 

tions. It involves revelation, without any attempt at a democratic disguise, 
of capitalist dictatorship. And a wise capitalist class will certainly not 
dispense with the serviceable mask of democracy, which has stood it in 
good stead, until no other course is open to it.*^ 

Hitler himself indicates the powerful und rcurrent of capitalist gov- 
ernment, shorn of its superstructure and fanfare of political democ- 

The movement is anti-parliamentarian; that means ... it rejects a 
principle of a decision by the majority, by which the leader is degraded 
to the position of the executive of the will and opinion of others.*^ 

It should be emphasized that the distinguishing fact about fascist 
governments is not that they are dictatorships. There is a popular be- 
lief, sometimes purposely indoctrinated, that all dictatorships subsume 
an identity of economic organization.*^ Nothing, however, is farther 
from the truth. When a people is at war, a degree of dictatorship be- 
comes imperative, and the greater the intensity of the conflict, the more 
complete the dictatorship is likely to become. "Fighting groups cannot 
be tolerant, nor can they harbor cynics."** Hence the presence of a 
dictatorship does not necessarily indicate the form of social organiza- 
tion. The proletarian government of Russia, for instance, is a dictator- 
ship ; all fascist governments are also dictatorships, but these two types 
of economic organization lie at opposite extremes of modern social 

Furthermore, they differ even in the durability of their dictatorships. 
The proletarian dictatorship has no basis for continuance after capital- 
ist aggression, especially from without, has ceased ; but since the fascist 

"Op. cit., p. 262. To the sarne effect Robert S. Lynd states further: "Organized 
business enterprise is less and less willing to tolerate checks on its activities by the 
state; more and more it needs the state as an active ally; and the national state, 
in turn, having delivered itself over by accepting the definition of its welfare as 
synonymous with the welfare of its business system, needs increasingly the utmost 
of agressive efficiency from its businessmen. Business is in politics and the state is 
in business." Op. cit., p. x. 

^Op. cit., p. 478. 

*^This kind of thinking recurs in similar social situations. On February 9, 1790, 
Charles J. Fox, in an attempt to clear himself from a charge by Edmund Burke 
of sympathy with -the French Revolution, declared before the British House of 
Commons that what he had said should not be taken to mean that he was a 
friend of democracy. "He declared himself equally the enemy of all absolute forms 
of government, whether an absolute monarchy, an absolute aristocracy, or an 
absolute democracy." See The Parliamentary History of England, 1789-91, Vol. 
XXVni, p. 363. 

By attempting a timeless, universalistic analysis of dictatorship, J. A. Hobson 
falls into this error. See his Democracy and a Changing Civilization. 

"George E. Vincent, "The Rivalry of Social Groups," American Journal of 
Sociology, XVI, 1910-1 1, pp. 47 iff. 

192 Caste, Class, and Race 

dictatorship can never expect a cessation of either internal or external 
aggression, it must endure. The social condition which produced 
fascism is not removed by fascism itself. Fascism is born of and per- 
petuated by irreducible conflict; hence its dictatorship must be per- 
manent. It is an attempt to halt and to turn back a democratic trend. 
Dwight Macdonald makes the observation that, "since fascism merely 
suppresses without solving the contradictions of capitalism, the class 
struggle goes on as violently as ever underneath the frozen surface."^^ 
With respect to internal conflict it should be made crystal-clear that the 
capitalists cannot conceivably eliminate the proletariat as a class; it 
could at most only temporarily destroy or drive its leadership under- 
ground. On the other hand, the proletariat can eliminate the capitalists 
completely; it must do this if socialism is to be achieved. In a word, 
there can be no pure bourgeois society because the antagonistic prole- 
tariat can never be fully purged. Normally, therefore, communism is a 
peaceful form of social organization, but normally fascism is a re- 
actionary form of conflict organization which may temporarily quiet 
though never eliminate its antagonists. 

The Ways of Fascism 

The fascists, as we have observed, arc the organization of a political 
class in action ; hence they are geared for violent struggle. To be sure, 
they cannot themselves fight their counterrevolution; they must have 
even the masses, their potential antagonists, to support them. Says 
Strachey : 

The fascist method implies essentially the attempt to create a popular 
mass movement for the protection of monopoly capitalism. Its adoption 
means that the directing capitalist groups consider that the regular state 
forces at their disposal are inadequate or unsuitable for repressing the 
workers. Thus, an attempt is made to create, by the employment of skilled 
demagogues, the expenditure of large sums of money, and the reckless 
dissemination of propaganda designed to play on every prejudice, a mass 
party composed of a petty bourgeois nucleus, combined with such back- 
ward workers and peasants as can be successfully deceived. The party is 
then used for the destruction by terror of working-class organizations of 
struggle, the workers' defense organizations, clubs, trade unions, news- 
papers and party "machines."^" 

^In Daniel Guerin, op. cit., pp. xii— xiii. 

*°Op. cit., p. 262. Hitler shows that he clearly understands the procedure. "The 
great masses of a nation," he writes, "will always and only succumb to the force 
of the spoken word. But all great movements of the people are volcanic eruptions 
of human passions and spiritual sensations, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of 
Misery or by the torch of the word thrown into the masses, and not by the lemonade- 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 193 

It is this high-powered appeal to the masses, then, which brings 
about confusion in some and conviction in others. Indeed the people 
may be consciously prepared for the fascist counterrevolution. Thus 
Lynd points out: "Organized business is extending this anti-democratic 
web of power in the name of the people's own values, with billboards 
proclaiming 'What's Good for Industry Is Good for Your Family,' and 
deftly selling itself to a harassed people as 'trustees,' 'guardians,' 'the 
people's managers' of public interest. "^'^ 

In any fascist movement emphasis upon race superiority and racial 
antagonism or intolerance helps to confuse the masses and to develop 
a degree of racial egocentrism. As an example of this technique, con- 
sider Hitler's artistry in the following: "In Russian bolshevism we must 
see Jewry's twentieth-century effort to take world domination to it- 

Fascism and the established religion, or rather the modern Church, 
are on the whole closely associated, and naturally so. The Church as a 
whole, as we have seen, is always reactionary; it upholds and stabilizes 
the social norms and values of the status quo, hence its natural sym- 
pathy must be with the counterrevolutionary class.^** In their revolu- 
tions the capitalists had to reckon with the Church, and today, in like 
manner, the Church confronts the proletariat. Concerning the capitalist 
struggle with the Church, De Tocqueville declares : "By a singular con- 
course of events, religion is entangled in those institutions which 
democracy assails and it is not infrequently brought to reject the 
equality it loves, and to curse the cause of liberty as a foe. . . . The 
religionists are the enemies of liberty and the friends of liberty attack 
religion."^" Thomas Jefferson himself took notice of the fact that the 

like outpourings of aestheticizing literate and drawing-room heroes. Only a storm 
of burning passion can turn the people's destinies, but only he who harbors passion 
in himself can arouse passion. Passion alone will give to him . . . the words that, 
like beats of a hammer, are able to open the doors to the heart of a people." Op. 
cit., pp. 136-37. 

^'Op. cit., pp. xiii— xiv. 

^Op. cit., p. 960. See also Robert A. Brady, The Spirit and Structure of German 
Fascism, pp. 53-63. 

*°E. T. Krueger and W. C. Reckless make a similar observation: "The church 
. . . regards itself as the protector and conservator of the social sentiments. It 
affirms the 'inherent' rightness of the mores, and through its pronouncements and 
teachings it formulates a moral philosophy and fixes the body of sentiments into 
an inviolable code of conduct." Social Psychology, p. 273. 

Friedrich Engels had already observed : ". . . the people must be kept in order 
by moral means and the first and foremost of all moral means of action upon the 
masses is and remains — religion." Socialism Utopian and Scientific, Fortieth An- 
niversary Ed., p. 27. 

Democracy in America, Vol. I, pp. xxv-xxvi. With respect to the integration 
of the Church and politics in the United States, this writer states further; "Religion 

194 Caste, Class, and Race 

priest has always been "in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses 
in return for protection of his own."°^ 

Indeed the function of the Church as a prime deflator of social move- 
ments has been repeatedly recognized. After the Napoleonic revolutions 
in Europe the reactionary nobility entrenched themselves with the sup- 
port of a reinvigorated Catholic Church. Professor Geoffrey Bruun, in 
describing the backwash of a later upsurge of liberalism and democ- 
racy, asserts: "The propertied classes had . . . been so gravely 
alarmed by the socialist and communist menace in 1 848 and 1 849 that 
they cast about for measures to combat it, and in several states ( France, 
Austria, Prussia) the government and the middle class repented the 
curbs which they had imposed upon the Roman Catholic Church and 
welcomed it again as a useful ally in combating socialist heresies." °" It 
should also be recalled that the "infallible" leadership of the Catholic 
Church has consistently defined practically every revolutionary de- 
velopment in science or social ideology as a direct attack upon its vested 
interests. The involvement of the fifteenth-century astronomers with 
the selfish policies of the Church was no less serious than that of the 
nineteenth-century biologists and paleontologists. 

However, the Church has now been accommodated to capitalism; 
hence it is, as we should expect, up in arms on its own initiative against 
any threat to the status quo. In an editorial in the English Catholic 
Times, the duty of the Catholic Church is thus clarified : "Our mission 
of salvation to Europe is to establish a united anti-communist Front. 
We must restore friendly relations with Italy and Germany, even at a 
great sacrifice, and then induce France, which will not be difficult, to 
fall into line with us on grounds of political safety."^^ 

in America takes no direct part in the government . . . but it must nevertheless 
be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it 
does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions." Op. 
cit., Vol. II, p. 146. Putting it another way, Robert Briffault concludes: "Religion 
as a whole is but a form of loyalty to the interests of English property." The Decline 
and Fall of the British Empire, p. ii6. See also on this point Henri Pirenne, Me- 
dieval Cities, pp. laSff. and pp. 179—80. Moreover, it was quite obvious to the 
philosophers of the French Revolution that organized religion stabilized the worst 
traits of the ancien regime; the system was shaken to its foundations when the 
National Assembly liquidated the great feudal estates of the Church. 

^Quoted by Samuel Bernstein, op. cit., p. 118. The same conclusion is reached 
by a modern observer. Says Nikolai Bukharin: "The Church, in addition to serving 
as a pacifier of the masses, restraining them from violations of the established order 
of things, itself was and still is a portion of the exploiting machinery, constructed 
according to the same general plan as the larger exploiting society." Op. cit., p. 177. 

^"Wallace K. Ferguson and Geoffrey Bruun, A Survey of European Civilization, 
p. 870. 

**Quoted by F. A. Ridley, The Papacy and Fascism, p. 208. Some of the most 
militant fascist movements in the United States — to say nothing of Europe — such 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 195 

Probably no sect of the Christian rehgion is so thoroughly opposed 
to the proletarian movement as the Roman Catholics. The established 
authority of tradition in the Catholic Church makes it fundamentally 
antipathetic to social change. "The papal court," says Briffault, 
"viewed England in Elizabethan days in much the same manner as it 
views Bolshevik Russia today."^^ The Roman Catholic Church has 
never wholly given up its medievalism; and proletarianism is even 
farther removed from its hierarchical formalism than capitalism. More- 
over, it has been well recognized that "the Roman Catholic Church is 
the richest single land and property-owning 'corporation' in Europe. 
Its policies were and are always in defense of its metaphysical and 
physical property.'?^ 

Recently the Pope reached a rather complete accord with the aims 
and methods of fascism. The papacy evidently lent financial support to 
the fascist venture in Abyssinia, and "in the Spanish Civil War it allied 
itself openly with II Duce." Says Robert A. Brady in his revealing study 
of the development of solidarity between the Roman Catholic Church 
and fascism: "In the Lateran Accord of 1929 Fascism adopted the 
papacy on condition that the papacy concede popular allegiance to the 
objectives of Fascism and the State and Empire in which those ob- 
jectives were embodi^d.'"^" 

In America the Catholic Church is steeped in the class conflict. One 
of its leading organs, Our Sunday Visitor, is a potent source of fascist 
propaganda. The way in which the issue is being joined may be illus- 
trated by the following commentary from an anti-fascist weekly news- 
letter. The latter comments upon the propagandistic technique adopted 

as the Youth for Christ and the Christian Youth of America are disguised as 
religious organizations. 

"Op. cit., p. 147. Pope Pius XI sets up clearly the opposition of the Catholic 
Church to the social movement. Thus he declares: " 'Religious Socialism' or 
'Christian Socialism' are expressions implying a contradiction in terms. No one can 
be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true socialist." See Walter C. Langsam, 
op. cit., p. 572. For a discussion of the place of the Catholic Church in the modern 
class struggle, see George Seldes, The Catholic Crisis, especially Chap. X, "The 
Vatican and the World." See also William Howard Melish, "Religious Develop- 
ments in the Soviet Union," American Sociological Review, June, 1944, pp. 279-86; 
"The Western Catholig Bloc," The Nation, Vol. 162, June 29, 1946, pp. 775-77; 
J. Milton Yinger, Religion in the Struggle for Power, pp. 142-52. 

"^See Robert Bek-Gran, "5 Keys to Europe," Politics, November 1944, p. 317. 
The medieval Church, of course, was a very much more formidable political institu- 
tion; it owned probably more than one third of all the land in western Europe. 

Business as a System of Power, p. 64. See also, for a discussion of democracy 
and the masses. Pope Pius XII, "The Dignity of Liberty of Man," Christmas 
address, Vatican City, December 24, 1944, reported in Vital Speeches, Vol. II, 
January i, 1945. According to Pope Pius, "Democracy . . . can be realized in 
monarchies as well as in republics. . . . The masses are the capital enemy of true 
democracy and of its ideal of liberty and equality." 

196 Caste, Class, and Race 

by Our Sunday Visitor (April 26-28) in ofTering a prize for the best 
answer to this multiple-choice question : 

Question: Why should all Christians favor the Nationalist 
[Franco-fascist] cause in Spain? 

1. Because the so-called Loyalists persecute all religion. [This is 
100 per cent false.] 

2. Because the Loyalists killed more than 14,000 priests and re- 
ligious, [This is totally false; the Loyalists did not kill anyone not 
armed and fighting them.] 

3. Because Franco is fighting against communism to preserve 
democracy. [This is false because Franco has publicly denounced 
democracy and adopted fascism.] 

4. Because all non-Christians favor the Loyalists. [This is false 
because among those favoring the Loyalists gg per cent were Chris- 

5. Because to favor the Loyalists is to fail to distinguish between 
good and evil. [The Loyalists were anti-fascist.] 

6. Because the Nationalists permit full religious freedom. [This 
was false when it was written, and is still false to an extent.] 

7. Because Franco favors fascism, which is an ally of Christianity. 
[The first part of this statement is the only true statement in this 

8. Because, if the Loyalists win, communism will soon rule West- 
em Civilization. [It is now generally admitted that a Loyalist victory 
would have stopped the fascist axis from starting the present war.y 

But, as we have attempted to show in the preceding chapter, this is 
to be expected. It may be pointed out again that religion in a capitalist 
society must be revolutionized if the economic order is to be revolu- 
tionized. The religion of capitalism is not the religion of feudalism. 
Capitalism could not reach maturity before medieval Catholicism had 
been revamped and brought into working consistency with the ends of 
capitalism; therefore, modern institutionalized religion is to a very 
large extent bourgeois-made. Indeed, Max Weber even thinks that the 
Protestant religion embodies the vital spirit of capitalism, the essence 
which made capitalism possible, so that the distinguishing social fact of 
bourgeois society is its characteristic religious ethics. A radical capitalist 
revolution, then, must inevitably involve a radical reformation of its 
religious basis. Proletarian society can be built only upon a funda- 

*Vn Fact, May 8, 1944. The comments in brackets are by In Fact. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 197 

mentally different system of ethics — that is to say, proletarian ethics. 
Thus, as anti-proletarian reaction sets in, we should expect the ruling 
class in both England and the United States especially to develop 
an increasingly intimate diplomatic and propagandistic affiliation with 
the Vatican, the time-honored hotbed of world-wide reaction.^^ 

Another significant feature of fascism is nationalism. Nationalism is 
essential to fascism because mature capitalism is not only concerned 
with internal political-class struggle but also with international struggle 
for world markets. Again Brady is in point ; says he : 

If we can draw any certain lesson from events in the recent past it is 
surely this, that organized business in one national system will show no 
mercy to organized business in another national system, once conflicts of 
interest have forced matters to the arbitrament of war.'^'' 

Extreme nationalism makes it possible for the capitalist state to 
muster its full strength in international conflict. Hitler expresses the 
temper of fascist nationalism in the following declaration : "Not with 
the call, 'Long live universal suffrage and the secret ballot,' had the 
young regiments once marched towards death in Flanders, but with 
the cry, 'Deutschland iXber alles in der Welt.' "^° But nationalism breeds 
counternationalism ; hence fascism merely clears the way for unending 
struggle "between mighty antagonists each of whom can enlist the 
power of whole states." Sweezy puts it thus: "Capitalism, by its very 
nature, cannot settle down but must keep expanding, and since the 
various sectors of the world capitalist economy expand at different 
rates, it follows that the balance of forces is bound to upset in such a 
way that one or more countries will find it both possible and ad- 
vantageous to challenge the status quo with respect to territorial 

No one can give a meaningful interpretation to certain paradoxes 
in World War II without understanding the internal and external con- 
flict necessity of capitalism. In so far as the aim of the fascists is the 
destruction of the proletarian movement, they are the allies of the 
ruling class in all the capitalist countries; but in so far as their aim is 

"^On June 6, 1946, a number of Protestant church leaders urged President Tru- 
man to sever "all diplomatic relations with the Vatican." These leaders expressed 
solicitude for the increasing political involvement between the government of the 
United States and the reactionary politics of the Vatican, and through their repre- 
sentative, Dr. Samuel Cavert, general secretary of the Federal Council of Churches 
of Christ in America, asked that Myron C. Taylor be recalled from the Vatican. 

■^"Op. cit., pp. 4-5. 

°"Op. cit., p. 260. 

•^Paul M. Sweezy, The Theory of Capitalist Development, p. 320. 

igS Caste, Class, and Race 

the redivision of world markets and territories, they face head-on col- 
lision and war with the capitalists of other states. Thus the basis of 
many of the seeming inconsistencies in the politics of World War II 
lies in the fact that the capitalist alliance was interested in destroying 
the fascists as competitors for world markets and natural resources but 
in saving them as bulwarks against the proletariat.*'^ 

Although it has been frequently asserted by such authorities as the 
former Secretary of State of the United States, the Honorable Cordell 
Hull, that the purpose of World War II was to destroy fascism wherever 
it was found, the fact remains that fascism cannot be destroyed by war 
between capitalist nations. Since a fascist state is a capitalist state in a 
certain stage of degeneration, the most that brother capitalist nations 
can hope to accomplish for a defeated fascist nation is the artificial set- 
ting up of a "capitalist democracy" which, if left to itself, will move 
rapidly back to its former position. Fascism, as a political-class phe- 
nomenon, can apparently be liquidated only by intranational action, 
revolutionary action, of the opposite political class. However, an inter- 
national imperialist war may so weaken the military power of a fascist 
government as to present the opportunity for its overthrow. But since 
capitalism itself is an international system, any attempt by the common 
people to liquidate fascism in favor of economic democracy will tend 
to arouse the violent reactions of the great capitalist nations. It is the 
latter situation which, after the fall of Adolf Hitler, produced Winston 
Churchill as the outstanding champion of fascist governments all over 

Nature of the Revolution 

In modern political-class antagonism nothing needs to be more 
clearly realized than that the proletariat will never supplant the capital- 
ists peacefully. Sombart puts it well: "Combat is the solution of the 
difficulty for this hard and unlovely proletarian generation . . . not 
peace, not reconciliation, not a general brotherhood, but battle. . . . 
Out of this is to cope a generation of men qualified to live and to work 

'nrhe following is an Associated Press report of Dec. 3, 1944: "The Left Wing 
Commonwealth National Committee, meeting in London today, issued a statement 
condemning British policy in Europe as reactionary. 'In Belgium,' the statement 
said, 'an unpopular government has been maintained by British bayonets, and in 
Italy and Greece British influence and British armored forces are used on the side 
of reaction. Those who fought against the Nazis are disarmed, and those who 
collaborated with the Nazis are often protected.' " 

®^See Michael Sayers and Albert E. Kahn, op. cit., for a discussion of Churchill's 
attitude toward socialism before Nazi Germany became a threat to the British 

Facets of Modern Political-Class- Struggle 199 

in an order of society higher than the present capitaUstic order."®* This 
fact of inevitable conflict becomes clearly apparent when it is realized 
that the aim of the proletariat is a new order. "If the proletariat sets an 
aim clearly before itself, this goal can only be, from the class stand- 
point, the overthrow of the capitalistic order."®^ 

A revolutionary group, a political class, cannot become a political 
party — in fact, a political faction — of the existing government without 
defeating its purpose. Political party factions tend to feel responsibility 
for the existing government. Labor "parties" tend to be reformist, 
whereas a true proletarian movement never loses sight of the fact that 
it can never adopt the fundamental political assumptions of the govern- 
ment ; it does not, moreover, expect the capitalist state to die merely of 

Although the fascists are in fact a counterrevolutionary group, their 
methods must nevertheless be revolutionary.®^ Hitler himself describes 
the fate of revolutionists who deal in the political values of the existing 
government : 

From the moment the Pan-German movement sold itself to parliament, 
it gained "parliamentarians" instead of leaders and fighters. 

Thus it deteriorated to the level of ordinary political parties of the day 
and lost the force to oppose a catastrophic destiny with the defiance of 
martyrdom. Instead of fighting, it now learned to "speak" and to "nego- 
tiate." The new parliamentarian considered it, within a short time, a 
nicer duty, because it involved less risk to fight for a new view of life 
with the "intellectual" weapons of parliamentary eloquence than to throw 
himself into a fight, and possibly risk his own life.®^ 

And decades before Hitler, Werner Sombart had written with refer- 
ence to the proletariat: "This franchise that had fallen into the lap of 
the working man inclined the leaders of the proletariat to purely parlia- 
mentary agitation, and for a long time hindered them from a right 

'"Werner Sombart, op. cit., pp. 1 12-13. 

°°Ibid., p. 104. For a discussion of the question of violence in modern political- 
class conflict, see John Strachey, Socialism Looks Forward, pp. 45-48. 

""In illustration, see Clifford Allen, "Has Britain Turned Socialist?" The Western 
Socialist, Vol. XII, September 1945, pp. 103-04; and Harold Laski, Parliamentary 
Government in England, pp. 153-54. Cf. N. Lenin, Left-Wing Communism. 

""On this point Strachey writes: "Fascism is a 'revolutionary' — actually counter- 
revolutionary, of course — force in but a very limited sense of the word. It does not 
seek to substitute the rule of one class for that of another, which is the only genuinely 
revolutionary act: on the contrary, its whole purpose is to preserve the rule of 
the capitalist class. . . . The fascists became 'revolutionary,' not in order to destroy 
the rule of the capitalist class, but in order to destroy weak capitalist governments 
which supinely allow the strength of the workers to grow to unmanageable propor- 
tions." The Coming Struggle for Power, p. 263. 

"'Op. cit., p. 135. 

200 Caste, Class, and Race 

understanding of the non-political aims of the proletariat."^'' As a 
matter of fact, the larger the number of seats the Social Democrats held 
in the Reichstag, the less revolutionary they became. 

It appears that capitalism cannot be transformed into socialism by 
means of the institutions and values of capitalism; the socialist state 
may arise only upon the ashes of these institutions. The proletariat can- 
not vote for socialism in a bourgeois parliament because the capitalists 
will not permit themselves to be destroyed by their own instrument. 
The machinery of the capitalist state has been fashioned by the bour- 
geoisie to suit the needs of their class ; therefore, in the achievement of 
its ends, the working class must contrive its own institutions. Indeed, 
even though it were possible to take over the capitalist state ready- 
made, this state organization will not be adapted to the new proletarian 

As we have already intimated, socialism cannot be instituted on the 
system of ethics developed by capitalism; consequently, a labor party 
seeking to gain the power must be prepared to ignore bourgeois con- 
cepts of right and wrong and to force the bourgeoisie to accept a new 
system of ethics as a mandate of the people. We may illustrate this: 
Suppose a labor government decides to "socialize" industry — i.e., the 
means of production — by a "just and fair compensation" to the private 
owners of them — a sort of extension of the idea of eminent domain; 
very little may probably be thereby accomplished. In fact, such a pro- 
cedure may be not only highly uneconomical but also disastrous to the 
government itself. 

In the first place, it must at least tacitly accept capitalism, and there 
is no reason to believe that a labor government will be a better capitalist 
entrepreneur than the bought-out businessmen : the likelihood is that it 
will be worse. Then, too, it will not make sense to have the people pay 
for the industries of their country. They clearly could not do so com- 
pletely. We need no Keynesian equation to show that if the govern- 
ment taxes the people to pay gradually for the industries, businessmen 
will first seek other industries at home for their investments; and, when 
opportunity for home investments becomes scarce, they will export 
their capital, thus leaving the country and the people heavily obligated 
to foreigners. The great capitalists may even follow their investments, 
since the home country will continue to become less and less favorable 
to "free enterprise. "^° 

Socialism, it seems, begins with the conviction that capitalism is pres- 

""Op. cit., p. 86. For a discussion of this subject, see Harold J. Laski^ op. cit. 
™Cf. John Strachey, op. cit., pp. 132-33; and A. C. Pigou, Socialism versus 
Capitalism, pp. 25-30. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 201 

ently wrong; it begins with the realization that between itself and 
capitalism two mortally incompatible systems of ethics are involved, 
The capitalists believe that, in accordance with their sacred principle ol 
freedom of contract, they have the right to exploit human beings in 
their own private interest. On the contrary, the socialists believe that 
production and the income of industry belong to the workers, to be dis- 
posed of by them in the interest of their own welfare. These two views 
are unalterably opposed; they involve two distinct forms of social 

Therefore, the function of a labor party which is in "control of the 
government" would seem to be (a) to get control of the military power 
by making sure that it is in the hands of convinced socialist officers, 
and (b) to dispossess without compensation the bourgeois masters of 
industry. This will clearly be justice in a democracy, for in a democracy 
the great mass of people must inevitably believe that none of their 
members should have the private right of control over the livelihood of 
others. In this situation, moreover, the very act of capitalist exploitation 
naturally becomes criminal. The leaders of the workers, then, are con- 
cerned with educating the workers to the point where they come to 
realize the nature of the opposition which confronts them and the prob- 
able human cost of reducing it. 

We may illustrate the trend of modem political-class action by the 
following scheme. Here the movement from feudalism to socialism is 
illustrated. At the side of the landlords the bourgeoisie arose, and the 
standard-bearers of each class developed political organizations for 
conflict. Out of this conflict came a new system, capitalism, and a new 
ruling class. Capitalism also brought forth the proletariat, the potential 
antagonists of the bourgeoisie. The militant members of each of these 
classes are now organizing for conflict, and the new system, socialism, is 
evidently in the ofRng. 

This illustration is rather simplified — possibly too much so. It does 
not take into consideration peculiar national variations or cultural lags. 
Moreover, as Leon Trotsky remarks pointedly, "Capitalism is not a 
national but a world-wide system." It has developed on a world scale, 
and its manifestation in different nations and colonies may be thought 
of as many weaker or stronger pillars culminating in a pinnacle, its 
finest expression. "The revolution in Russia was a breaking of the 
weakest link in the system of world-wide capitalism." ^^ In this connec- 
tion Karl Marx also observes: 

The form of this relation between rulers and ruled naturally corresponds 
always with a definite stage in the development of the methods of labor 

'^Leon Trotsky, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 1 76. 

202 Caste, Class, and Race 

and its productive social power. This does not prevent the same economic 
basis from showing infinite variations and gradations in its appearance, 
even though its practical conditions are everywhere the same. This is due 
to innumerable outside circumstances, natural environment, race pecu- 
liarities, outside historical influence, and so forth, all of which must be 
ascertained by careful analysis.^ ^ 

Since capitalism necessarily harbors two political classes, the bour- 
geoisie are likely to feel the tremors of proletarian unrest during the 
very crisis created by their bid for power. The French Revolution had 
its communistic upthrust, while the Russian proletariat overthrew 'their 
bourgeoisie before the latter could consolidate their position. Indeed, 
even the Cromwellian revolution had its Diggers.^^ 

Then, too, fascism may be skipped. As Dutt remarks concerning 
this: "Fascism is not inevitable. Fascism is not a necessary stage of 
capitalist development through which all countries must pass. The 
social revolution can forestall fascism, as it has done in Russia. But if 
the social revolution is delayed, then fascism becomes inevitable."^* 
Indeed, since capitalism exerts its power and force beyond national 
boundaries, all the stages in its development and decay need not be re- 
peated, without exception, in every country. 

Thus our schematized illustration of the social movement represents 
only a social tendency toward which Western civilization is moving. In 
some European countries feudalism has not yet been completely van- 
quished, while other groups such as anarchists and syndicalists help to 
complicate the free movement of the capitalist dialectic. 

We should be very much misled if we were to lose sight of the fact 
that the struggle between political classes is basically a struggle between 
social systems. The tiers Stat represented the modem urban way of life. 
It included not only the bourgeoisie but also the workers, the artisans, 
petty traders, intellectuals, and so on. What is significant, however, is 
that a victory for this way of life was a victory for a specific ruling class, 
the bourgeoisie, who finally fashioned the society upon an ideal of free 
competition and profit making. The struggle between the proletariat 
and the bourgeoisie is basically a conflict between a profit system and a 
planned welfare economy. A victory for the proletariat will affect the 
institutional structure of the society so fundamentally that the whole 
society will necessarily assume a new configuration. 

The class organization for struggle is constituted by the militant ele- 

''Capital, Vol. Ill, p. 910. 

■"See The Works of Gerard Winstanley, ed. by George H. Sabine. 

'*R. P. Dutt, op. cit., p. 18. 








Class Orqanization for Conflict 
Political Classes 












3" Political Estate 

Class Organization for Conflict 
Political Classes 

1'' 8^2'^ Political Estates 












Trend of Modern Political- Class Action 

204 Caste, Class, and Race 

ments of the class. For example, the communists or socialists of any 
country are not the whole political class. They are, properly speaking, 
the organizational and ideological standard-bearers of the proletariat 
who are the true rank and file of the political class. As part of the mod- 
ern class struggle itself, the bourgeoisie, in their propagandistic attacks 
upon Russia, have insisted that the Russian Communist party rules the 
rest of the proletariat antagonistically. Bukharin seems clear on this 
point. Says he : 

The struggle of the working class is inevitable; this struggle must be 
guided; this guidance is the more necessary since the opponent is powerful 
and cunning, and fighting him is a serious matter. We naturally expect to 
find the entire class led by that section of it that is most advanced, best 
schooled, most united: the party. 

The party is not the class; in fact, it may be but a small portion of the 
class, as the head is but a small part of the body. But it will be absurd to 
attempt to find an opposition between the party and the class. The party 
is simply the thing that best expresses the interest of the class. ^^ 

The Struggle in the United States 

The explanation usually suggested for the quietude of the workers 
in the United States is that their solidarity is constantly disrupted by 
the relatively easy movement of individuals into upper social classes. On 
this question Ogburn and Nimkoff are at hand. 

American social conditions . . . have given to the masses a psychology 
unlike that possessed by the English people. The son of an English 
laborer has considerably more expectation of following in his father's 
footsteps than does the son of an American worker. . . . Thus the sym- 
pathies of the American workers have not been tied up so definitely with 
those of their own economic group ; evidence of this is the relative weakness 
of trade unions in the United States as compared with those in England. ^° 

'^Nikolai Bukharin, op. cit., p. 305. In the following statement by Harold Laski 
a distinction may be made between the political faction and the party in England 
where the increasing power of workers in the Labor party now presents a double 
party situation: ". . . until our own day we have been governed in all funda- 
mental matters by a single party in the state since 1689. For though that party 
has given the appearance, by its technique of division into two main wings, of 
bifurcation, the fact always has been until now that both wings did define in 
common the ends of parliamentary government. . . . The electorate . . . was 
. . . choosing between two wings of the same party rather than between different 
parties. The line of demarcation between them was . . . quantitative rather than 
qualitative in character." Parliamentary Government in England, pp. 83, 145. See 
Arthur Rosenberg, A History of Bolshevism, trans, by Ian F. D. Morrow, pp. syff. 
for a discussion of fundamental difference between Lenin and Trotsky on party 

""Sociology, pp. 330-31. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 205 

However, this explanation does not appear to be the whole reason; 
it may not even be the principal reason. Since about the latter part of 
the last century, labor in the United States has become increasingly 
conservative. Does this mean that there is a concomitant increase in 
social mobility? Does it mean that opportunities for workers to become 
capitalists are increasing? Evidently not.^^ 

The principal reason for the weak proletarian movement in the 
United States seems to lie in the strategy of a small but powerful group 
of workers themselves. Before the achievement of dominance of business 
unionism in American labor, the workers were repeatedly coming into 
conflict with the ruling class. Their natural condition of struggle was 
everywhere evident. In commenting upon the temper of organized 
workers in this period, Selig Perlman writes: 

The movement bore in every way the aspect of a social war. A frenzied 
hatred of labor for capital was shown in every important strike. . . . Ex- 
treme bitterness towards capital manifested itself in all the actions of the 
Knights of Labor, and wherever the leaders undertook to hold it within 
bounds they were generally discarded by their followers, and others who 
would lead as directed were placed in charge. The feeling of "give no 
quarter" is illustrated in the refusal to submit grievances to arbitration 
when the employes felt that they had the upper hand over their employers. 
. . . No warning from a leader, however high, was capable of restraining 
the combative rank and filc.^^ 

In a similar vein Corey sums up the militance of the labor movement 
of the period : 

The great strikes of 1877 assumed the character of mass insurrections, 
and were followed by strikes of an equally militant character, culminating 
in the 8-hour strikes of 1886 and ending with the great Pullman strike of 
1894 (the Debs Rebellion) . The militancy of American labor in this stage 
is indisputable, comparable with the militance of any labor movement 
any where. "° 

The battle songs of the workers also indicate clearly their conscious- 
ness of class antagonism. Says Louis Adamic: "On the streets of 

'^It is interesting to observe how our practice looks when viewed from Europe. 
Thus J. Ramsay MacDonald said in 191 2: "The brutal force which money exerts 
in America in the workshop, the corrupt force it can exert on the bench and in 
the capital of every state, make it the most natural thing imaginable for labor to 
contemplate a resort to such force as it can command — dynamite, sabotage, bad 
work, the revolutionary strike." In the London Daily Chronicle, quoted by Louis 
Adamic, Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America, p. 99. 

™John R. Commons and Associates, History of Labor in the United States, Vol. 
n, pp. 374-75. See also John Swinton, A Momentous Question: The Respective 
Attitudes of Labor and Capital, and Samuel Yellen, American Labor Struggles. 

™Lewis Corey, op. cit., p. 556. 

2o6 Caste, Class, and Race 

Chicago, in saloons, wherever else workers gathered, one could hear 
early in 1 886 such songs as : 

Toiling millions now are waking — 

See them marching on; 
All the tyrants now are shaking. 

Ere their power's gone. 


Storm the fort, ye Knights of Labor 

Battle for your cause; 
Equal rights for every neighbor 

Down with tyrant laws."^° 

And in the agitation leading to the Haymarket Riot, workers read 
frOm their newspapers such violent passages as the following : 

Bravely forward! The conflict has begun. . . . Workers, let your watch- 
word be: No compromise! Cowards to the rear! Men to the front! The 
die is cast! The first of May is here. . . . Clean your guns, complete 
your ammunition. The hired murderers of the. capitalists, the police and 
militia are ready to murder. No workers should leave their houses in these 
days with empty pockets. ^^ 

Gradually, however, labor was to be tamed by some of its own lead- 
ers into a highly individualistic form of organization. The great revolu- 
tionary labor struggles of the last quarter of the nineteenth century 
tended to degenerate into the sporadic, individualistic racketeering and 
petty violence of interbusiness rivalry. In 1886 the American Federa- 
tion of Labor defeated a true workers' organization, the Knights of 
Labor, in a jurisdictional strife and began a policy which clearly bears 
a greater share of the responsibility for the peaceful exploitation of the 
masses of workers than the activities of the employers themselves. This 
policy has also been adopted by the great railroad brotherhoods; and 
its apparent success has been a source of envy among unorganized 

We call the Knights of Labor a true workers' organization because it 
was interested in all workers. Business unionism is not interested in all 
workers, but only in those whose organization pays. The guiding prin- 
ciple of Samuel Gompers, who held the presidency of the AFL and its 
parent organization almost continuously from 1882 to 1924, centered 

^'Op. cit., p. 62. 
«^Ibid., p. 69. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 207 

about the watchword : "If it doesn't square with your due book, have 
none of it."®" 

The AFL organizes those workers in positions of greatest strategy 
in the labor market, the skilled workers, the so-called labor aristocrats. 
Its federated nationals charge high dues, pay good benefits, and depend 
for their strength on the consciousness of a brotherhood of skill and of 
mutual if exclusive interests. They act as a monopoly of labor to the 
degree that it is possible. ^^ 

At this point we should mention that the unorganized worker is 
practically helpless as a bargaining or political force. Outside of a labor 
union he could hardly become conscious of his proletarian interests; 
therefore, other things being equal, the smaller the organization of the 
workers, the less the likelihood of radicalism among the proletariat. The 
business unionism of the AFL cannot and does not have an interest in 
the organization of all workers; on the other hand, an organizing policy 
which includes and has for its end the incorporation of the great mass 
of workers must inevitably be radical. 

Every indiscriminate organization of workers will be revolutionary. 
Conservative unionism is the inevitable result of discrimination among 
workers on the basis of their capacity for organization co-operatively 
with business. But the great mass of unskilled and semiskilled proletariat 
cannot be thus organized, for it is upon the opportunity for coincident 
exploitation of this mass by the selected workers that the conservatism 
of the latter mainly depends. 

Almost without exception the capitalist labor-economists who write 
textbooks divide labor unionism into conservative and revolutionary, 
with the expressed or implied conclusion that revolutionary unionism 
is pathological. The social determinism involved in the nature of union 
membership itself is seldom if ever recognized. However, businessmen 
are by no means unaware- of this fundamental characteristic of labor. 
Dutt cites the following statement circulated by letter among German 
business leaders. Says the writer of the letters: "Any united workers' 
movement springing up from below must be revolutionary, and this 
rule would not be able to hold out against it for long, not even with the 
means of military power."^* 

Labor leaders, who do not understand the ultimate antagonism be- 

^Seventy Years of Life and Labor, Vol. I, p. 287. 

""See J. Raymond Walsh, C.I.O., p. 19. 

®*R. P. Dutt, op. cit., p. 171; from the Deutsche Fiihrerbriefe. These "Fiihrer- 
briefe," or "Letters to Leaders," constitute a "political-economic private corres- 
pondence" originally issued in 1932 for confidential circulation to the heads of 
finance-capital, organized in the Federation of German Industry. Ibid., p. 170. 

2o8 Caste, Class, and Race 

tween the working class and the bourgeoisie, are always frightened by 
the extremes to which worker-conscious unions go when they clash with 
the employers. These leaders ordinarily mistake immediate demands 
for higher wages and better conditions of work for the real destiny of 
the working class. At any rate, it took years of selection of workers and 
ruthless suppression of rank-and-file organization by capitalistically 
minded labor leaders before conservative unionism came to character-, 
ize the American labor scene. 

The remarkable fact of the role assumed by the AFL is not that it 
does not organize the masses of workers but that it stands directly in 
opposition to the organization of these workers. The AFL stands as an 
impregnable barrier, a formidable wall of ice, against the development 
of a working-class consciousness in the United States. Though its mem- 
bership ordinarily amounts to only about one tenth or less of the or- 
ganizable workers, it always speaks in the name of the underprivileged 
masses in its own interest. It collaborates whenever possible with em- 
ployers, because, to put it in Gompers's rationalization: "I knew that 
the cause of labor was so just and our methods so practical that a hear- 
ing before employers must necessarily result in better relations." ^^ 

This, of course, is business diplomacy adopted by a privileged clique 
of workers. As a business they pit themselves against other businesses, 
and their greatest enemy is not infrequently the out-group workers, 
organized or unorganized, which they conceive to be their immediate 
competitors. What they are really asking for is a share of the lucre 
which, when obtained by a "hearing," ordinarily means collaboration 
in the further exploitation of the mass of unorganized workers — a sec- 
ondary exploitation of weak workers by the leadership of workers in 
strategic positions. This trait of business unionism may justly be called 
labor cannibalism. In characterizing the opportunism of the British 
trade unions (1850-80), from which the infant AFL took a pattern, 
Werner Sombart observes: 

This practical tendency finds its true incorporation in the old English 
trade-union, which ... is the shrewdest scheme for the protection of 
personal interests that has ever been conceived ; diplomatic, adroit, smooth 
towards that which is above — towards the employer; exclusive, narrow, 
brutal towards that which is underneath — towards four-fifths of the "out- 
siders," the poorer classes of workmen. The trade unions are capitalistic 
and businesslike organizations.^*^ 

^Op. cit., p. 400. (Italics added.) 

^'Op. cit., pp. 68-69. "The constitution [of the AFL] was copied almost verbatim 
from that of the British Trade Unions Congress and its Parliamentary Committee." 
See Lewis L. Lorwin, The American Federation of Labor, pp. 10-13 passim. 

Louis Adamic states pointedly the present position of the AFL: "The attitude 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 209 

The most effective and consistent method used by the AFL to keep the 
masses of workers unorganized and docilely exploitable is the refusal to 
organize the strong with the weak workers. The insistence upon picking 
out the skilled workers in an industry and disregarding all others has 
destroyed many opportunities for wider labor organization. On this 
score Gompers states in smooth diplomatic language : 

The Federation having no power of compulsion, could not enforce 
practices contrary to the wishes or rules of affiliated unions. The Federa- 
tion does not instruct unions as to the structure of their organization. 
Unions may select the industrial form if they so desire. ^'^ 

As an illustration of what this means, when in 1935 the auto workers 
offered themselves to the AFL as an industrial union, the "affiliated 
unions" in convention assembled rejected them. "The auto workers 
could not vote for what they wanted ; the votes were in the hands of the 
national crafts. The cards were stacked in advance."®^ As practical busi- 
ness people the crafts wanted to siphon off the skilled workers at a 
"hearing" with the employers and to leave the masses totally unpro- 
tected and helplessly exploitable. It would then be perfectly good busi- 
ness practice of the few organized skilled workers to have their wage 
increase offset by a reduction in the wages of the unorganized masses. 

Because of the structure and business aims of the AFL it is prac- 
tically impossible for it to favor a policy which seeks the unlimited 
organization of workers. Indeed, an essential element in the strength of 
craft unionism rests upon a definite selection of workers for organiza- 
tion. As Dr. Louis S. Reed points out: 

The great majority of unions in the Federation being craft unions, to 
ask these unions to endorse the principle of industrial unionism was, ac- 
cordingly, almost like asking them to commit harikari. For, it is evident, 
craft unionism and industrialism are mutually exclusive and conflicting. 

of the AFL toward society at large was, in most vital respects, not unlike that of 
the capitalists. The trade-union leaders were bent upon getting for themselves 
and their members everything that could be had under the circumstances, whenever 
possible, by any means — dynamite included — that involved no great risks to them- 
selves or the future of their organization. It did not concern them whether those 
benefits were attained at the expense of the capitalist, the unorganized proletariat, 
the organized labor outside the AFL, or the country as a whole. Politically, they 
'played the game' as it was played by the capitalists, that is, to gain immediate eco- 
nomic advantages or benefits. They were not antagonistic to the wage system. . . . 
They accepted the capitalist system and proposed to make the best of it." Op. cit., 
pp. 90-91. For a description of the British trade-union movement, which is similar to 
that of American business unionism, see Fenner Brockway, op. cit., p. 21. 

It is true that the AFL has had industrial internationals affiliated with it, but 
these were never permitted to limit its craft control. 

^'Op. cit., pp. 406-07. 

**J. Raymond Walsh, op. cit., p. 36. 

2IO Caste, Class, and Race 

. . . The establishment and spread of industrial unions . . . could only 
mean the loss by craft unions of members, influence, and strength.^^ 

Nothing shows up the character of business unionism so well as the 
history of the AFL's struggle with the CIO. The eight international 
unions which separated from the AFL constituted the original CIO 
and organized a number of major industries. One would think that 
the AFL, having this great job of prganization finished, would consider 
it a windfall to give charters to the great new unions. Not so, however. 
The condition of accepting these workers into the Federation is that 
they allow their unions to be raided and shattered by the international 
craft unions according as the latter's business profits indicate. 

The AFL and other business unions, therefore, have been a real 
barrier to the formation of a true proletarian movement in the United 
•States. Their methods of struggle with the workers' movement have 
been exactly that of the businessman. "Already the AFL," says J. Ray- 
mond Walsh, "has begun waving the red shirt and yelling 'Bolshevik!' 
and in a few localities the less responsible representatives have tried Jew- 
baiting to stop the CIO."^° 

Decades ago business unionism in the United States established its 
plan of action against the proletarian movement. At the close of the 
last century, in an AFL convention, Gompers declared: "I want to 
tell you. Socialists, that I have studied your philosophy. ... I declare 
it to you, I am not only at variance with your doctrines, but with your 
philosophy. Economically, you are unsound; socially you are wrong; 
industrially you are an impossibility."^^ 

And up to the time of his death in 1924 he was still of the same 
opinion. Expressing himself on the new civilization that was being 
built in Russia, he said: "After five years the Soviets have demon- 
strated beyond question that socialism is economically unsound, socially 
wrong, and industrially impossible. "^^ Estimating the proletariat lead- 
ership in implicit terms of profits and success, the values of the business- 
man, he declared further': "The conspicuous socialists have uniformly 
been men whose minds have been warped by a great failure, or who 

^The Labor Philosophy of Samuel Gompers, p. 132. 

*Op. cit., p. 274. Walsh observes further: The AFL "have even entered into 
collusive contracts with employers to close out their rivals. . . . They have at- 
tacked their recent associates as communists, as racketeers, as members of an alien 
race." Ibid., p. 280. Consider also the extremely reactionary attitude of the AFL 
in its refusal to attend the 1945 World Trade Union Conference called in London 
by the British Trade Union Congress, because, it argued, the CIO and the workers 
of the Soviet Union were represented. 

*^Op. cit., p. 397. 

•^Ibid., p. 398. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 211 

found it absolutely impossible to understand fundamentals necessary to 
developing practical plans for industrial betterment."^^ 

Thus business unionism^* not only collaborates with the capitalists in 
the exploitation of the masses for a part of the profits, but also stands as 
the great bulwark against the development of a significant workers' 
movement. It is for this reason business unionists have been denounced 
as "betrayers of the workers." Indeed, the business unions, in their pre- 
occupation with problems of splitting profits with employers, have 
literally sacrificed the masses of workers who most need organization. 
The strongest section of the American proletariat has made a succes- 
sion of opportunistic deals with the businessmen; these deals have re- 
sulted temporarily in some substantial increases in wages and in big 
salaries for its leadership besides the effective exploitation, disorganiza- 
tion, and demoralization of the great mass of American workers. The 
interest of the leadership in this kind of unionism is graphically indi- 
cated by Louis Adamic. Says he : 

Today the AFL is utterly spiritless. Its leaders are pompous, high-toned 
Babbitts, some of them with stock-exchange tickers in their offices. Its 
conventions compare with those of the Elks, the Rotarians, and the 
National Association of Soap Manufacturers. They invite army generals 
to address them. William Green . . . goes to West Point to review the 
cadet corps and receive honors such as are ordinarily rendered only to 
visiting royalty.^^ 

But the peaceful exploitative tactics of the AFL have not really 
stopped the movement of social forces. Its alliance with the employers 
against the masses of underprivileged workers is quite fictitious. As 
Walsh correctly says: "The forces that attack the CIO today with its 
unskilled workers will tomorrow attack the AFL with its skilled, when- 
ever the tensions in our society drive property to defend its profits at 
the expense of democracy."^® This prediction was published in 1937. 
Ten years later, on June 23, 1947, an anti-labor Congress passed the 
Taft-Hartley bill, one of the most crippling attacks on all organized 
labor in the history of the United States. And this, we may be sure, is 

Ibid., p. 383. See also Lewis L. Lorwin, op. cit., pp. 30, 73—75. 

'^The policy and practices of the AFL may be taken as representative of all 
business unions in the United States; indeed, the great railroad brotherhoods are 
even more opportunistic and exploitative than many of the AFL internationals. 

*^Op. cit., pp. 251-52. Speaking of the post- World War I period of the history 
of the AFL, Carroll R. Daugherty says: "For every union official with a vision 
and aggressiveness, there were many who appeared entirely willing to live mild, 
undisturbed lives of white-collar, middle-class ease, supported comfortably by the 
dues of existing members." Labor Problems in American Industry, p. 339. 

^J. Raymond Walsh, op. cit., p. 280. We should mention, however, that already 
it seems the militant CIO is being tamed. 

212 Caste, Class, and Race 

but the first unmistakable expression of ruling-class displeasure over 
the democratic advancement of the workers during the last decade. 
Moreover, the essential antagonism between the worker and the capital- 
ist becomes readily apparent when labor refuses to organize individual- 
istically. As soon as the superior workers identify their interest with all 
workers and thus abandon their opportunity for temporary gain at the 
expense of their fellows, labor tends to become revolutionary. 

The leaders of such unions as constitute the railway brotherhoods 
and the AFL typically dread the idea of ultimate responsibility for 
entrepreneurial control of industry by the workers. Their Utopian 
dream is that of perpetually whittling away the total income, using their 
position of great bargaining strategy to obtain for themselves a rela- 
tively large share of the sum which goes to labor. The end must be to 
have industry run by private enterprise in the interest of labor, par- 
ticularly organized skilled labor with strategic bargaining power. There 
is in the ideology of this faction of labor a basic distrust of the masses 
of workers, a distrust of economic democracy. And yet it could never be 
honestly encouraged by businessmen because its immediate function 
and ideals are parasitic. As the lesser of two evils, however, businessmen 
prefer it to that faction of labor which recognizes that in modem society 
private business enterprise is dispensable and that businessmen are a 
principal source of social waste. 

Business unionism, nevertheless, is not entirely without accomplish- 
ment in securing the ends of the proletariat. The mere fact of its 
organization in industry is a notable achievement. Thus says Dr. Reed 
aptly : 

The very attainment of organization and the securing of a collective 
agreement constitute a veritable revolution in status, both for workers 
and employers. By that single step, the workers have enormously increased 
their own power at the cost of the employers'. . . . The efTect of their 
ever-expanding demands is to shift more power to themselves, to absorb 
the power of the employer, and to restrict his control of industry. A union, 
therefore, is not anti-capitalistic merely because it prefaces its constitution 
with a preamble stating that it aims to overthrow the existing order. Nor 
docs the union accept capitalism in saying that it does. Rather by the 
very logic of its nature and function, a strong union is anti-capitalistic, 
and changes the existing order in its day to day activity. ^^ 

Whether they realize it or not, then, all industrial workers — from the 
ultra-individualistic railway brotherhoods to the group-conscious mari- 
time unions — are fundamentally "communistic." 

"'Louis S. Reed, op. cit., p. 24. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 213 

The State and the Class Struggle 

Probably one of the most difficult aspects of socialist thought to di- 
gest, even among socialists themselves, has been the idea of the vanishing 
proletariat state f^ and yet it is based upon a simple truism. By defini- 
tion, according to the socialists, the state is an instrument of class 
exploitation. If, in a proletarian society, there will be no political classes, 
then there will necessarily be no state. In commenting upon the taking 
over of power by the proletariat, Engels says : 

As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection, as 
soon as class rule . . . [is] removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, 
and a special repressive force, a State, is no longer necessary. The first act 
by virtue of which the State really constitutes itself the representative of 
the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in 
the name of society — this is, at the same time, its last independent act as 
a State. State interference in social relations (relations between classes) 
becomes in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of 
itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of 
things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The State is not 
"abolished." It withers away.^^ 

This is the central idea of the vanishing socialist State. It is clear 
that the socialists intend to do nothing to "abolish" the State. Their 
preoccupation is with the abolishment of political classes; this end 
achieved, the State merely atrophies from disuse. "The proletariat 
seizes political power and turns the means of production into state 
property. But, in doing this, it abolishes itself as proletariat."^"" Herein 
lies the crucial difTerence between the design of the anarchists and that 
of the socialists. The anarchists see the State rather than the social 
forces which produce the State as their primary concern. 

The anarchists have no clear idea as to what the proletariat will put 
in place of the State, nor how it will use its revolutionary power.^°^ 
This is utopianism. The socialists, however, do not seek to destroy the 
State directly. Their end, to repeat, is the liquidation of the exploiting 
capitalist class and consequently of all political classes. They insist on 
using the machinery of a state to accomplish this. Having eliminated 
the exploiters from within and from without, the State naturally be- 

"^Friedrich Engels and Nikolai Lenin are the leading exponents of the socialist 
theory of the state; see Lenin, The State and Revolution, and Sherman H. M. 
Chang, The Marxian Theory of the State. 

•^Op. cit., pp. 129-30. 

^•"Engels, op. cit., p. 69. 

^°^See Lenin, op. cit., p. 216. 

214 Caste, Class, and Race 

comes obsolete. It should be observed that, of the known types of 
advanced societies, only a socialist system can hope to achieve state- 

The socialists do not confuse the idea of a state as a power organiza- 
tion serving the exploitative purpose of a ruling class with administra- 
tive institutions devoted only to the accomplishment of increasing 
well-being among the whole people. Indeed, Engels's statement, "The 
government of persons is replaced by the administration of things," 
may be paraphrased: The exploitation of persons is replaced by the 
exploitation of things. 

Moreover, it is likely that, with a hasty consideration of the idea of 
the vanishing socialist State, one may think of the socialist community 
as being finally in chaos. However, planning and social control are 
particularly the business of the proletariat. Clearly, a stateless society 
need not be a planless society. Whereas in the capitalist society the 
social scientist is likely to be looked upon with suspicion, in the socialist 
society his function will be most desirable. In the latter system the un- 
limited application of science to the problem of human welfare will not 
constantly run afoul of the businessman's profits. 

The whole sphere [says Engels] of the conditions of life which environs 
man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the domina- 
tion and control of man, who for the first time becomes the real, conscious 
lord of Nature, because he has now become master of his own social 
organization. The laws of his own social action hitherto standing face to 
face with man as laws of Nature, foreign to and dominating him, will 
then be used with full understanding. . . . Only from that time will man 
himself, more and more consciously, make his own history^only from 
that time will the social causes set in movement by him have . . . the 
results intended by him.^"^ 

Views of the Social Movement 

Finally, a word should be said about certain popular views of the 
social movement. A common practice of capitalist economists is to 
criticize mercilessly some one or a number of points in Karl Marx's 
theory of value, price, and distribution. Having ripped through the 
Marxian conclusion, they dust off their hands and retire in the assur- 
ance that they have disposed of the social movement. This perform- 

^'"Friedrich Engels, op. cit., 1902, pp. 134-35. 

On this point, and in reference to Soviet Russia, Maurice Parmelee observes: 
"All cultures of the past have found their ideological basis in religion, theology, 
and metaphysics. For the first time in the history of mankind a culture is based 
upon science. This is one of the most momentous events in human annals. . . ." 
Bolshevism, Fascism, and the Liberal-Democratic State, p. 59. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 215 

ance may be likened to that of a socialist economist who successfully 
refutes some arguments of David Ricardo's and on that ground con- 
cludes that capitaUsm has only a mythical existence. 

Marx's writings have value only in so far as they help us to under- 
stand the actualities of the social movement ; detailed negative criticism 
of them does not appear to have value per se/°^ As Eduard Heimann 
puts it : 

What [Marx] did was to study the newly formed proletarian men to 
comprehend :.their blind instincts, and to express them in a coherent 
objective program of society that the workers could recognize for them- 
selves. . . . He revealed to them the goal to be attained at the end of the 
road along which they were being driven by the inner necessity of their 
communal work; he showed them the meaning of their existence. ^°* 

Another rather vulgar view of the movement is that evinced in the 
argument that "the personal expenditures of the rich amount to very 
little, and [that] if their 'wealth' and incomes were evenly distributed, 
this would materially affect only the large body of incapables, derelicts, 
and mentally deficient survivals of neolithic population out of which 
modern civilization has arisen. "^°^ Some intelligent social scientists have 
actually computed the number of dollars each person in the United 
States would receive if the wealth of the rich were divided among them 
and, finding this amount to be only a small sum, come to the con- 
clusion that socialism is a fallacy. Of course this is ridiculous, for it 
must be clear that the new social order contemplated by the proletariat 
— by democracy — does not mean a mere sharing of dollars while still 
retaining capitalism. "The distinguishing fact," says John Strachey, "is 
that in a communist society no incomes shall be derived by virtue of the 
possession of the instruments of production. ""° Moreover, production 
by use of large quantities of capital goods is a primary" motive of social- 
ism; that is to say, capitalistic production without capitalism. 

"The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of 

^°^A remarkable illustration of the uses of Marxian criticism is that presented in 
one of Werner Sombart's later publications. Under the influence of the rise of 
Nazism, this distinguished author who had written realistically as a social scientist 
has, in his convenient criticism of Marx and laudation of the "divine" plan of 
National Socialism, speedily degenerated into a puerile scholastic dialecticism. 
One is literally astonished to observe the former scholar weaving his way into com- 
patibility with "perman Socialism," and this all in "the spirit which finds its 
expression in the words: 'all for our country.' " See A New Social Philosophy, trans, 
by Karl F. Geiser. Cf. Talcott Parsons, "Capitalism in Recent German Literature: 
Sombart and Weber," The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 36, pp. 658-61. 

^'^Communism, Fascism or Democracy, p. 95. 

^"^Carl Snyder, op. cit., p. 411. 

^""Op. cit., p. 344. 

2i6 Caste, Class, and Race 

property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property." Any view 
of socialism which does not assume a logical social order developing out 
of a senescent capitalism is Utopian. Such vacuous statements as "There 
will be no family under socialism," or "God will be abolished under 
socialism," or "Socialism means dictatorship" are typical of Utopian 
thinking. We can know what will necessarily characterize a socialist 
society only by reasoning within the frame of reference of a capitalistic 
economic order without capitalists, an order determined by and devoted 
to the welfare of the whole people. The detailed features of such a 
system will depend upon the degree of resistance of capitalists during 
the period of "transvaluation of values" and the social history peculiar 
to the people. 

A variant of what may be called the share-the-wealth view of social- 
ism is the argument that, with the rise of the modem corporation, so 
large a number of persons have come to own shares of stock that it may 
be said profits have become socialized. To the great majority of small 
stockholders, however, dividends are of the nature of interest; these 
small stockholders have none of the functions of entrepreneurship. 
Here, too, the significance of capitalism as a social system based upon a 
peculiar method of production is reduced to the simple idea of dis- 
tribution of profits. The question of class conflict inherent in the system 
is translated into a question of status relationship between the rich and 
the poor. It is assumed that the only aim of the proletariat is to have 
more money regardless of the system in which it is produced. Suppose, 
for instance, the activities of gangsters were to be judged anti-social; 
would their decision to share their income among certain interest groups 
be sufficient to liquidate the source of antagonism against them? The 
difficulty with capitalism inheres not so much in the way profits are 
distributed as in the social pathology developing out of the system of 
profit making per se. 

Probably no fact is more difficult for the capitalistically oriented per- 
son to grasp than that the origin of human initiative may not have been 
coeval with capitalism.^°^ The following statement by the former 
United States Ambassador to Russia, Joseph E. Davies, is typical of 
this difficulty. In communications with the Secretary of State he ex- 
plains the absence of pure communism in Russia : 

The idea of a "classless" society has been and is being destroyed in 
practice. The government itself is a bureaucracy with all the indicia of 
class, to wit: special privileges, higher standards of living, and the like. 

^*"For a classic statement of the nature of motivation in capitalist society, see Sir 
Henry S. Maine, Popular Government, p. 50. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 217 

. . . Writers, artists, even leaders of jazz bands, receive high compensa- 
tion and have the class privileges which money provides in luxuries and 
the like. . . . 

In industry, classes have been established and are being rapidly inten- 
sified and developed through the system of offering greater pay for greater 
work. This in turn has induced higher standards of living among certain 
of the workers, and class consciousness is evinced in differences in housing 
and living conditions and indications of style consciousness on the part 
of women and wives of the workers. . . . "Class," after all, is only a 
word to define an idea ; the basis of which is that there are different groups 
of men which are differentiated, as among themselves. . . . The only 
insistent and constant stimulus to the workers was found to be the profit 

Based on the idea of a selfless society, the state here is constantly 
threatened with the fact that it cannot destroy the instincts of human 
nature toward self-interest. These are imbedded in the glandular, nervous, 
and physical organism of men and are the resultant of atavistic forces of 
centuries. If these instincts cannot be eradicated in a generation or two, 
this experiment must fail.^°^ 

We have quoted at length from Davies not only because his ideas are 
untouched by sociological sophistication but also because they are 
politically authoritative and popular. Although it is the prime reason 
for his going astray, we shall not dwell upon the author's basic con- 
fusion of social and political class.^°^ However, we should mention that 
workers do not have a "profit motive" ; more wages are not the same 
thing as more profits. Furthermore, a proletarian society does not pro- 
pose to abolish "self-interest." One may insist that it does only if one 
assumes that "self-interest" is an exclusive trait of capitalism.^^° This 
belief that men cannot live co-operatively as well as exploitatively is 
only about three hundred years old, hence it is sheer nonsense to speak 
of it as having a biological residue. In order to encourage superior per- 
sonal initiative it is sufficient that society compensates it with superior 
social recognition, and clearly the means of such compensation have not 
all been pre-empted by capitalism. In a socialist society, "to be 'some- 
body' means doing something, not having something." 

^^Mission to Moscow, Pocket-book Ed., pp. iio-ii, 341, 349. 

^""Cf. Mildred Fairchild, "Social-Economic Classes in Soviet Russia," American 
Sociological Review, June 1944, pp. 236—41. 

"°On this point Harold J. Laski is outspoken. Says he: "When [capitalism] 
broke down the principle of birth as the foundation of privilege and replaced it 
with the principle of wealth, it secreted a fatal poison in the very roots of its soil. 
That poison was the establishment of the idea that the acquisition of property as 
the main source of power was the true end of man. Not holiness, not culture, not 
fellowship, were vital articles of faith. Social life was ... a 'beneficent private 
war' in which, because the fittest survived, the fate of the individual was a matter 
of indifference to the cosmos." Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time, p. 356. 

2i8 Caste J Class, and Race 

Indeed, there may be a real question whether that elfish glee experi- 
enced by the "hardheaded businessman" over the sight of the 
compounding growth of his profits, in total disregard of their human 
basis, is a greater source of inspiration than the genuine elation derived 
from the applause and appreciation of one's fellows for services con- 
tributed to the welfare of the group as a whole. 

The capitalist argument that human beings will not exert them- 
selves unless they are at least potentially able to take off some small 
fraction of the things which they produce in the form of profits to enjoy 
selfishly and individually in isolation is, to say the least, a degenerate 
commentary on the possibilities of human nature. Socialism abolishes 
private property in the means of production but not in consumers' 
goods. In his explanation of the phenomenal growth of industry in the 
pre- World War II Soviet Union, Albert Rhys Williams observes: 
"Among their incentives to exert themselves to the utmost is the knowl- 
edge that the profit from their labors does not go into private pockets 
but into the public pool for the benefit of all. Others are the awards and 
decorations bestowed for signal and faithful service. . . . There is, 
also, assurance that no barriers of caste or race will keep them from the 
highest posts, with manifold opportunities to fit themselves therefor."^^^ 

We should remember also that not so long ago it was generally be- 
lieved that the workers had to be kept poor or they would have no 
initiative. Arthur Young said with assurance : ". . . every one but an 
idiot knows that the. lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never 
be industrious. . . . They must be, like all mankind, in poverty, or 
they will not work."^^^ In fact, this argument still remains at the pith 
of the belief that profits are the greatest stimulus to human endeavor 
and, consequently, most beneficial to human society. It may be shown, 

"^"Meet the Russian People," Survey, February 1944, p. 44. 

^'^The Farmer's Tour through the East of England, Vol. IV, p. 361. For a back- 
ground of the development of this attitude, see Eli F. Heckscher, Mercantilism, 
Vol. II, pp. 145-72. 

Laski seems to be again in point; thus he asserts: "Given reasonable remunera- 
tion, there is not, historically, an atom of evidence to suggest that men work less 
eagerly in public, than in private, employment, granted that the work interests 
them and that an equal esteem is attached to its performance. If, in a given society, 
the man who can acquire most is most highly regarded, it is very probable that 
ambitious and able men will drift into the most lucrative occupations. And if, as 
with ourselves, the defense of the power and privilege which attach to wealth is 
an urgent preoccupation of the ruling class in society, they will, of course, see to it 
that everything possible is done to cry down principles of social action which 
threatens their power and privilege. . . . But where the standard of public 
judgment is not set by the power to acquire wealth merely, there is not an iota of 
serious evidence to support this argument. Here, at least, the experience of the 
Soviet Union is conclusive." Op. cit., p. 379. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 219 

however, that if men are inspired they may summon initiative to serve 
and to produce in an intensity limited only by their physical powers. 

Sometimes liberal thinkers charge that "the radicals," "the com- 
munists," shift their policy in the most unpredictable ways. They some- 
times find the radicals feverishly advocating some domestic or foreign 
policy and praising the statesman who champions it, and later, without 
giving any apparent reason, switching to an opposite policy and de- 
nouncing the same statesman for his position on the question. This has 
been called derisively, "the communist line" — an erratic, untrust- 
worthy political philosophy. 

At any rate, the reason for these shifts appears to be that socialists, 
whether they be Americans, or Englishmen, or Spaniards, must work 
through the existing administration of capitalist states in seeking to 
foster their own disparate ends. The ends of the capitalist statesman 
and those of the socialist leader are never the same. But it may so 
happen that the immediate policy of the capitalist statesman may 
serve the ends of the socialists, and, to the extent that this is so, the 
latter will support that policy and the statesman who advocates it. 

For instance, Winston Churchill is fundamentally anti-democratic 
and reactionary. But when for imperialistic motives he championed the 
cause of Russia against the great fascist powers led by Germany, he 
endeared himself to the socialists all over the world. A victory for 
fascism would have been a much* greater reverse for socialism than the 
threat of British imperialism. The ends of the two were different, but 
the immediate policy served the purpose of both. 

In like manner, when the reformer, Franklin D. Roosevelt, took 
office as President of the United States, attacked the "economic royal- 
ists," and sponsored Section 7A of the National Recovery Act, he was 
praised as the great liberator of the workers; he took a step in the direc- 
tion of democracy and socialism. When he refused effectively to aid 
Loyalist Spain against fascist Italy and Germany, the socialists de- 
nounced him ; when during the first stage of World War II he sought to 
take the United States into the war on the side of Britain and France, 
they denounced him again and seemed to take sides with Senator Bur- 
ton K. Wheeler and Charles Lindbergh. The motive here was to have 
the great European capitalists destroy themselves by the very plans 
which they had concocted for the destruction of communism. But when 
Germany attacked Russia, the war became mainly a class war between 
socialism all over the world and the developed fascism of Europe. The 
sociahsts now found it expedient to urge America and England to fight 
a religious war against fascism. The policy of the radicals, in being con- 

220 Caste, Class, and Race 

sistent with ends antagonistic to capitalism, may be inconsistent with 
the immediate policies of capitalist nations.^^^ 

Moreover, part of the seeming inconsistency of socialist policy is due 
to the inevitable inconsistency between the supposed ideals and prac- 
tices of the capitalist ruling class all over the world. For instance, after 
some public pressure upon the State Department of the United States 
for a statement on the purpose and aims of the United States in World 
War II, Secretary of State Cordell Hull declared in a world-wide radio 
address on April 9, 1 944 : 

There can be no compromise with Fascism and Nazism. It must go 
everywhere. Its leaders, its institutions, the power which supports it must 
go. . . . There cannot be any compromise with fascism — whether in 
Italy or in any other country. It must always be the enemy, and it must 
be our determined policy to do all in our power to end it. 

This, indeed, was an objective worthy of the tremendous sacrifice 
which the American people were making ; it was a good answer to their 
question: What are we fighting for? But when on April 17, 1946, the 
question of the United Nations severing diplomatic relations with 
Franco Spain came up in the Security Council, the Department of 
State of the United States, supported by the British representative, led 
the fight against such action on the pretext that it might result in civil 
strife in Spain, and in the meantime the United States proceeded to 
sell Franco surplus American Army supplies. All these seeming incon- 
sistencies, however, may be explained by an understanding of the mod- 
ern class struggle. 

Even as Hull was speaking, one understood that he was putting him- 
self on the spot — that he could not really mean what he was saying. He 
was saying, in effect, that the United States was fighting a class war on 
the side of socialism. We should expect no inconsistency between the 
policy of the United States as Hull enunciated it here and the "com- 
munist line," and there is none; this capitalist, political switch is quickly 
forgotten, yet it is pivotal. It is today the primary source of conflict 

"^The experienced Lenin had already discussed the problems of struggle which 
confronted the weaker political class: "To carry on a war for the overthrow of the 
international bourgeoisie, a war a hundred times more difficult, prolonged and 
complicated than the most stubborn of ordinary wars between countries, and to 
refuse beforehand to maneuver, to utilize the conflict (even though temporary) 
of interests between one's enemies; to refuse co-operation and compromise with 
possible (even though transient, unstable, vacillating, and conditional) allies — is 
not this an infinitely laughable thing? Is it not as though . . . we were to renounce 
beforehand the idea that we might have to go sometimes ... in zig-zags, some- 
times retracing our steps, sometimes giving up the course once selected and trying 
various others?" Left-Wing Communism, authorized trans., pp. 66-67. 

Facets of Modern Political-Class Struggle 221 

among the great powers. In reality the ruling class in Britain and the 
United States never intended to fight such a war ; it did not, and prob- 
ably will never, go to war merely to defeat fascism in other countries. 
However, it cannot say so to the people ; as usual, it must use the values 
of the people to achieve its own ends. Mr. Hull's statement was un- 
doubtedly made to allay and placate the inordinate upsurge of demo- 
cratic feeling during the war. After the war the capitalists began 
forthwith to reorganize their forces for reaction, and European fascism, 
with the open assistance of the American ruling class, again tended 
to recover its function in the international class struggle with Russia 
and with the workers of every country.^" 

"*See Edgar Snow, Stalin Must Have Peace, Pt. II, pp. i56ff., for a review of 
paradoxes in United States-Russian diplomacy. 

12, Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle 

Meaning of Modern Democracy 

come a war cry — a war cry of both the capitalists and the proletariat 
in their struggle for power. And yet quite frequently the public is at a 
loss about the meaning of democracy. It has been often said, for in- 
stance, that democracy has different meanings : neither the British, the 
Americans, nor the Russians mean the same thing when they refer to 
democracy. In reality, however, they do mean the same thing; they 
only conceive of it in different stages of development. If we view the 
phenomenon in its historical context we shall be able easily to observe 
that modem democracy has not yet fully emerged in any part of the 
world. ^ 

Ordinarily the British and the Americans, among others, call their 
form of government and social system democracy, but, strictly speak- 
ing, this is a misnomer. The fact is that these social systems have been 
continually becoming something else; modem democracy is still in its 
fetal stage. ^ In the United States, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, 
Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt are all symbols of demo- 
cratic progress. In England the Cromwellian revolution and the Level- 
ers, the Reform Bill of 1832 and the Chartist movement, and the rise to 
political ascendancy of labor mark great episodes in the development of 
democracy. Ever since the rise of towns in the later Middle Ages, 

^Cf. C. Delisle Burns, Political Ideals, p. 276. 

^The fundamental error of William E. H. Lecky in his critique of democracy ap- 
pears to be the belief that democracy has been already achieved in modern Western 
society. Says he : "Democracy has completely 'triumphed in two forms — the Amer- 
ican and the French- — and we see it fully working before us. Men may like it or 
dislike it, but only rare and very peculiarly moulded minds can find in the govern- 
ment of either republic a subject for real enthusiasm." Democracy and Liberty, 
p. 43. For an earlier discussion with a similar assumption, see Sir Henry Sumner 
Maine, op. cit., p. 337; and for a review, Benjamin Evans Lippincott, Victorian 
Critics of Democracy, Minneapolis, 1938. 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle 223 

Western society has been moving away from a definable, non-demo- 
cratic society toward a still unattained democracy. 

To be accurate, then, the British and American systems should be 
called governments with democratic tendencies. They are oligarchic- 
democratic or capitalist democratic hybrids.^ Therefore, the question 
of crucial significance must logically be: How far has the particular 
system advanced toward its apparent goal of an accomplished democ- 
racy? Moreover, the criteria here involved will be obviously based upon 
the extent to which capitalist practices and ideals give way to those of 
democracy. It is in this sense that it has been said democracy should be 
"respected rather more for its potentialities than for its achievements." 
As Arthur Rosenberg points out : 

The medieval state was a clear, unequivocal type, just as a socialist 
state would also be a definite form. In addition to other manifestations 
of the bourgeois state, the decisive, important, basic fact of bourgeois 
private property is common to modern democratic states. Therefore 
within states based upon the same fundamental economic fact it is not 
very easy to determine the exact point where democracy ceases and oli- 
garchy begins. . . . Social forces change incessantly even though the 
constitutions remain intact. Thus, except for a few changes, the Constitu- 
tion of the United States is still the same as in the days of Washington, 
and yet what immense changes have occurred in American society and 
consequently also in the real American constitution since then!* 

From the standpoint of degrees of development of democracy in the 
three great nations of the world — the United States, England, and 
Russia — the United States is probably most backward and Russia 
farthest advanced.® England ( disregarding her colonial imperialism for 

^Cf. Henry J. Ford, The Rise and Growth of American Politics, pp. 6 iff. 

It may be mentioned, incidentally, that for this very reason it becomes very 
difficult for either England or the United States to impose their oligarchic-demo- 
cratic systems upon conquered nations. The hybrid systems not only limit, specific 
definition but also present a major problem to the British and American mentors 
in determining where to establish the balance of power. The tacit assumption 
appears to be that the balance existing at home will be transferred to the foreign 
country, but even at home it is always under a potential threat of disruption. 

It should be expected also that these very promoters of "democracy" abroad, 
because of their origin in the hybrid states, may have quite different conceptions 
of their mission according as they lean toward the oligarchic or the democratic 
side of the parent system. In this enterprise of indoctrinating foreign peoples in 
the theory and practice of democracy, Russia may be the most decided and specific, 
because, although that country has not yet fully achieved democracy, it is very 
much less divided by the ideologies of two major conflicting systems. 

^Democracy and Socialism, p. 357; see also pp. 3-10. 

^Concerning the democratic movement, Professor Carl L. Becker remarks: "It 
will be said that in Russia the ideals of Communism are not in fact lived up to. 
That is true. It is also true that the ideals of democracy are not lived up to in the 
United States, England, or any other democratic country. . . . But the ideal 

224 Caste, Class, and Race 

the moment) is far more worker-conscious than the United States, 
while Russia has already successfully fought her proletarian revolution. 
As fear of internal and external counterrevolution diminishes, the prob- 
lem of abolishing the Russian proletarian dictatorship should be a 
relatively simple matter. In that country a clear democratic foundation 
has been established. On this point Dr. Frederick L. Schuman makes 
the following lively assertion : 

Only those observers who are invincibly ignorant, or blinded by irra- 
tional fear and hatred, will deny that the Soviet system of business and 
power has, for all its abuses and crudities, promoted the liberation of men 
from impoverishment, exploitation, illiteracy, and prejudice and served 
the cause of human dignity and self-respect on an immense scale. These 
purposes are of the essence of the democratic dream. In this sense the 
USSR is a democratic polity.® 

Meaning and Significance of Modern Democracy 

If we are to be consistent in the use of the concept democracy, it is 
necessary to define it. Democracy may be thought of either as a form of 
government or as a social system including the government. As a form 
of government — a political system in which "the people" participate in 
deciding matters of public interest — democracy has been common 
among primitive peoples and in ancient Greece and Rome. In this sense 
the Hindu village panchayat is a democracy.^ In modem democracy, 

forms are not to be despised or lost sight of for all that. . . . The worst thing that 
can be said about the Americans or the English or the Russians is that they do 
not live up to their ideal aims." Freedom and Responsibility, p. 105. See also 
Woodrow Wilson, Constitutional Government of the United States, p. 203. 

The United States may be thought of as the "last great stronghold of capitalism." 
But for the financial and military aid of the United States, to say nothing of moral 
approbation, British imperialism would speedily come to an end. It is likely that 
there is greater antagonism in the United States to the democratic reforms in 
England than there is in England itself. Of some significance is the appearance of 
the British Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, in the winter of 1945, before the 
Congress of the United States in order to explain by various arts of oratory that 
the reforms of the British Labor Government are not really anti-capitalist. It 
should also be noted that this government was elected by vote of the British people. 

^Soviet Politics, pp. 585-86. C. D. Burns observes: "This ideal of democracy, 
which has set Russia ablaze, bums as well if less fiercely in other lands." Op. cit., 
p. 284. See also E. H. Carr, The Soviet Impact on the Western World, p. 11. 

'^It was possible, by conceiving of "the word democracy" as a "formula and 
practice of suffrage — a mechanism of rule," for James Burnham {The Machiavel- 
lians, pp. 236-54) to show that almost any form of social system can exist under 
democracy; or indeed to show, to his own satisfaction at any rate, that democracy 
is not possible at all. This kind of thinking, however, tends to be a sort of historical 
game played with abstract definitions. It led Burnham to say that Henry A. Wal- 
lace's election "was not a voluntary expression of the will of the people at large" 
because Wallace is a "Bonapartist mystique" who tells the people particularly that 
"the new democracy, the democracy of the common man," included "economic 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle L 

~. •■ the 

however, the form of government is not the crucial fact; it is rather 

dependent instrument of a determinable democratic system. 

Democracy as a social system is a modem phenomenon; it is 
significantly different from the ancient or primitive social systems. 
Moreover, it did not grow out of or develop as a higher stage of ancient 
democracy. In other words, modern democracy does not have its origin 
in Grecian democracy any more than does the modem factory system. 
Above all, we should be misled by thinking of the democratic move- 
ment as primarily a developing system of ideologies or, as it is some- 
times believed, a system of "foreign ideologies." The democratic 
movement is the most practical and insistent social force in Western 
society. Democracy as a social system is the direct outcome of the rise of 
capitalism, and it is essentially a system of economic and social organiza- 
tion; the form of government is being fashioned to facilitate this system. 
Within this context it has had three well-recognized periods of growth : 
that of " ( I ) the elimination of the vestiges of the old regime — the 
heritage of the middle ages; ( 2 ) the establishment of the liberal regime 
of the 'benevolent bourgeoisie' ; and ( 3 ) the attack upon the supremacy 
of the bourgeoisie by the proletariat, beginning about the middle of the 
19th century."^ 

Democracy, then, was made possible of achievement by the bour- 
geoisie, but it cannot be achieved by the bourgeoisie. In fact, the bour- 
geoisie is unalterably opposed to democracy.^ The task of establishing a 
democracy necessarily devolves upon the proletariat, and its final ac- 
complishment must inevitably mean its supersession of capitalism. We 
may put it in still another way: capitalism not only destroyed the old 
land economy but also gave birth to a new type of society which gains 

democracy, ethnic democracy, educational democracy, and democracy in the treat- 
ment of the sexes." 

In a play with the logic of a definition of the word Jean-Jacques Rousseau 
wrote : "To use the term in its rigorous acceptation, a true democracy has never 
existed, and will never exist. It is against the natural order of things that the 
majority should govern and the minority be governed. ... If there were a people 
of gods its government would be democratic. So perfect a government is not 
suitable for men." The Social Contract, trans, by Rose M. Harrington, 2d ed., 
pp. 102, 104. 

^Harry E. Barnes, "Democracy," The Encyclopedia Americana, 1940; see also 
by the same author, The History of Western Civilization, Vol. II, p. 489. 

®Lord Acton makes this observation: "The deepest cause which made the French 
Revolution so disastrous to liberty was the theory of equality. Liberty was the 
watchword of the middle class [the bourgeoisie], equality of the lower [the prole- 
tariat]. It was the lower class that won the battles of the third estate; that took 
the Bastille, and made France a constitutional monarchy; that took the Tuileries, 
and made France a Republic. They claimed their reward. The middle class, having 
cast down the upper orders with the aid of the lower, instituted a new inequality 
and a privilege for itself." The History of Freedom and Other Essays, p. 88. 

224 Caste, Class, and Race 

^j^p.elative strength and influence with the advancement of capitalism. 

Modern democracy, therefore, is antagonistic to capitaHsm; the 
greater the development of democracy, the greater the limitations upon 
capitalist freedom and the stronger the proletariat. Thus, as history 
shows clearly, whatever fraction of democracy we possess today has 
been achieved in increments by and for the masses against the more or 
less violent opposition of bourgeois and even of remnant feudal classes. 
The great source of strength of the proletariat inheres not only in its 
indispensability to capitalist production, but also in its inevitable im- 
provement in strategic position as capitalism develops. Moreover, the 
proletariat has been able to make certain periodic, democratic gains 
as a consequence of the military involvement of the bourgeoisie. Usually 
the bourgeoisie has had to make democratic concessions as a reward for 
the services of the proletariat both in the former's conflict with feudal- 
ism and among themselves internationally. 

In its struggle for democracy, the first great aim of the proletariat 
everywhere has been the extension of the suffrage. Ordinarily, when a 
capitalist nation has conceded universal manhood suffrage, it is said to 
be a "political democracy."^" The mere fact of universal suffrage and 
representative institutions, however, need not indicate the exact extent 
to which democracy has attained maturity. To the extent that the ques- 
tions put to the people concern the welfare of capitalism, to that extent 
also the ballot is not in the service of the proletariat. For here "the 
people are a sovereign whose vocabulary is limited to two words, 'Yes' 
and 'No.' This sovereign, moreover, can speak only when spoken to."^°* 
The focus of interest of democracy is in the well-being of the masses, 
and this interest cannot be made dependent upon the success or pleas- 
ure of businessmen.^"" As Harold Laski observes: ". . . capitalist de- 
mocracy was a compromise . . . approved by the capitalist so long as 
its democratic aspect did not threaten the foundations of capitalism."^^ 

^°"The British constitution ... is the expression of a politically democratic gov- 
ernment ; it is not the expression of a democratic society. . . . Our society is, over- 
whelmingly, what Mr. Tawney has called an acquisitive society, and its main govern- 
mental apparatus is in the hands of those who have been themselves^ successful in 
acquisition." Harold J. Laski, Parliamentary Government in England, pp. 24-25, 27. 

'"^E. E. Schattsneider, Party Government, p. 52. See also William B. Munro, 
The Government of European Cities, p. 258. 

^"Tresident Calvin Coolidge put the capitalist conception of the people's wel- 
fare as follows: "We justify the greater and greater accumulation of capital 
because we believe that therefrom flows the support of all science, art, learning, 
and the charities which minister to the humanities of life, all carrying their 
beneficent effects to the people as a whole." Speech at Amherst College alumni 
dinner. New York, November 27, 1920. 

^^Where Do We Go from Here?, p. 30. 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle 227 

In a political democracy, such as that of the Northern states of the 
United States, political concessions give essentially every normal, adult 
individual the privilege of supporting a social system in which every 
individual has the theoretical right and opportunity to remain or to 
become bourgeois. 

But the situation is dynamic. The masses and their leaders have been 
constantly seeking to take hold of this popular support of capitalism 
and to use it for the purpose of transferring economic power to them- 
selves. In the words of Lewis Corey: "Bourgeois democracy, in the 
'rights' it 'grants' the workers, now undermines capitalist rule where 
once it was sustenance and support."^" 

Clearly, then, accomplished democracy — democracy with its sub- 
stance residing in the people — will be finally attained only when the 
democratic form has been fully impregnated with power to control 
the State and its economic resources. When the economic power of the 
State has been completely won from the bourgeois plutocracy by the 
great mass of people, the bourgeoisie will have, of course, been 
liquidated and capitalism will have come to an end. It is a realization 
such as this which prompted Rosa Luxemburg to say : "He who would 
strengthen democracy should want to strengthen and not weaken the 
socialist movement."^^ 

In reality the essential fear of socialism is a fear of democracy, for 
socialism merely puts the government of the people into their own 
hands. To argue against socialism is not to argue against any known 
practice, existing or contemplated, but it is, rather, to argue against the 
capacity of a people to devise a system of practices most suitable to the 
utilization of their human and natural resources. The fear of socialism 
is a fear of the postulated ideals of the so-called democracies; it is a fear 
based upon the belief that the people cannot in fact run their society 
according to their best interest — in fine, the struggle for and against 
democracy is the struggle between the two great social systems of mod- 
em civilization.^* 

As we have previously observed, ever since about the time of the 
Cromwellian revolution an increasingly large proportion of the common 

^Op. cit., p. 522. 

"Op. cit., p. 41. Cf. Hans Kohn, op. cit., pp. 345-63. 

^*In his discussion of the economic basis of the Constitution of the United States, 
Charles A. Beard observes: "In turning over the hundreds of pages of writings left 
by eighteenth century thinkers one cannot help being impressed with the fact that 
the existence of a special problem of a working-class, then already sufficiently 
numerous to form a considerable portion of society, were outside the realm of poli- 
tics, except in so far as the future power of the proletariat was foreseen and feared." 
An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, p. 25. 

228 Caste, Class, and Race 

people in Europe and in America has inched its way toward democ- 
racy. But it should be emphasized that the stinaggle for democracy is 
not a struggle against evil spirits or against "the wickedness of human 
nature"; it is in fact a struggle against an identifiable ruling class — 
against the form of government and social organization which the rul- 
ing vestigial-feudal or capitalist class constitutes and defends. 

When, for instance, we hear it said that the British take their reforms 
by evolutionary and not by revolutionary methods, the meaning is that 
the British proletariat is confronted by one of the most powerfully en- 
trenched ruling classes of modern times. The Whig-Tory combination, 
according to its political-class interest, has set its face against democ- 
racy, and only by virtually imperceptible degrees have the workers been 
able to nibble away certain democratic concessions. They have found 
their Nemesis principally in British "middle-class" liberalism — Man- 
chester liberalism. As R. W. Postgate puts it: ". . . the history of the 
English working class reminds one of a helpless prisoner, knocking use- 
lessly at one door, turning to the other, returning again to the first, and 
all in vain. The alternations of political radicalism, industrial Owenism, 
political Chartism, 'old' trade unionism, etc., succeed each other 
monotonously, and by neither door can the workers find an exit from 
their prison."^^ 

Probably nothing illustrates so well the nature of the struggle for 
democracy against the capitalist oligarchy — in this case the British 
oligarchy — as the Chartist movement during the two decades preceding 
1850. When the Chartists, the common working people, petitioned the 
liberal-conservative Parliament, among other things, for such "radical" 
reforms as universal manhood suffrage and the secret ballot, they were 
rejected and their bid for a degree of democracy violently put down. 
Moreover, what is of especial significance is the fact that the workers 
were clearly conscious of the extent and source of the physical might 
which opposed their democratic movement. Today, after long struggle, 
the British people have achieved these rights, but they do not yet have 
a democracy, and it is patently clear that they will not have a govern- 
ment of the people and by the people as a gift of the ruling class 

Freedom and Democracy 

One of the most persistent arguments of the capitalists and their 
apologists against democracy is that it destroys "freedom." Indeed, for 

^^Revolution from lySg to igo6, p. 104. 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle 229 

most people in Western society the word "freedom" has acquired a cer- 
tain rapturous stereotype on which the advocates of the status quo 
seldom fail to capitalize. This, of course, is not surprising, for the social 
trait is as old as capitalism itself — it is elemental in bourgeois civiliza- 
tion. And long before the rise of capitalism Christianity had associated 
freedom, spiritual freedom, with earthly peace and bliss — witness the 
power of the Gospels: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall 
make you free." Occasionally even the proletariat may be so condi- 
tioned by this pervasive idea of "freedom" that it will yield to many an 
anti-democratic contention when confronted with the suggested possi- 
bility of interference with the integrity of "freedom."^® Sometimes the 
public is designedly made to think of "freedom" as the opposite of 
confinement, as the opposite of imprisonment — a glad state of libera- 
tion. As a matter of fact, everybody wants "freedom"; and yet, no 
society will ever be able to secure unlimited, abstract freedom for its 
members. Every social system has definite potentialities for social free- 
dom, and we can know what these are only by a study of the social system 
itself. Professor Harry D. Gideonse points out that "freedom always 
meant 'freedom' within a given framework of social institutions, legal 
standards and regulatory practices."^^ 

Sometimes it is argued that capitalism has abolished the "slavery" of 
feudalism and has given the individual his freedom, the end toward 
which all civilization has been tending. To be sure, the fact that no one 
wanted individualism in a feudal society is seldom if ever brought out. 
As Erich Fromm observes : "Medieval society did not deprive the indi- 
vidual of his freedom, because the 'individual' did not yet exist,"^^ 
Sometimes, indeed, there is a further implication that the modern trend 
toward democracy is a return to feudalism — "the road to serfdom," 
"the assault upon freedom," "the return to slavery." 

As a form of social organization, however, socialism is the very antith- 
esis of feudalism. If we can conceive of any similitude in the develop- 
ment of these two systems, it is this: Just as at the dawn of feudalism 
the smaller landowners gave up their holdings to tne great landlords 
and became his men in lieu of his protecting them against the lawless, 
raiding gangs who roamed over the country, so also the common people 

"For a discussion of the meaning of bourgeois liberty, see John Strachey, op. cit., 
pp. 58-64; and for a summary of definitions of Hberty see Arthur N. Holcomb, 
The Foundations of the Modern Commonwealth, pp. 253—94. 

""Freedom and Planning in International Economic Relations," in Findlay Mac- 
kenzie, ed., Planned Society, p. 679. 

"^^Escape from Freedom, p. 43. 

230 Caste, Class, and Race 

of modern times have increasingly become willing to give up their 
empty individualism in favor of concerted action against the powerful 
financial lords who exploit them and the resources of their country 
objectively, that is to say, in their own individual interest, without 
mercy/^ In liquidating the feudal ruling class the bourgeoisie sub- 
stituted themselves as masters of the common people. 

But is it really true that freedom is lost in a democracy — that we can- 
not have democracy and freedom too? Is bourgeois freedom the only 
human freedom? As a matter of fact, it may be shown that the social 
history of Western society from feudalism to socialism has been the 
history of a continually widening base of freedom — movement from a 
social situation in which the masses were totally non-political objects to 
one in which they may become full-fledged determiners of their social 
destiny. Feudalism, to be sure, had its freedom and its power. The 
nobility, which possessed freedom and power, was quite willing to die 
for their perpetuation. Under feudalism the possession of land gave the 
individual power and freedom, just as under capitalism the possession 
of great wealth gives the individual power and freedom. Now, for the 
first time in history, the masses have become ready to capture the source 
of freedom. Democracy will turn power and freedom over to the 
people. The bourgeoisie destroyed the freedom of the feudal nobility so 
that they themselves might be free, and the common people, the 
proletariat, are now seeking to destroy bourgeois freedom so that they 
themselves may be free. The latter is a struggle for the positive freedom 

■^^In discussing the development of individualism Erich Fromm concludes: 
". . . the individual becam.e more alone, isolated, became an instrument in the 
hands of overwhelmingly strong forces outside of himself; he became an 'individual,' 
but a bewildered and insecure individual." Op. cit., p. 120. 

Freedom, as a social trait of capitalist society, means individualism; in caste or 
feudal societies there is neither necessity nor desire for individualism. In the caste 
system the nearest approach to individualism is that social condition of isolation 
achieved by outcastes, a state which has been termed "living death." Freedom, in 
the sense of absence of restraint upon the individual, is a rather non-significant con- 
cept for the study of social systems. Only God is free from and independent of 
physical and social restraints. But for this very reason the discussion of freedom in 
the latter sense is valuable for propaganda purposes. There is surely an elemental 
human desire for freedom in the sense of absence of "restraints." An infant of tender 
age could be put into violent rage by simply pinning down his legs and arms. This, 
however, is not the idea of bourgeois freedom. Once upon a time a Northern banker 
stopped to joke with a janitor of his bank. Said he, "I am disgusted with all these 
wartime bureaus and red tape ; they show just what one will have to go through in a 
communist system. Here it is almost a week since my doctor advised me to go to 
Florida for my health, and I still haven't my allowance of gas for the trip. Give me 
a free society any time." To this the janitor replied: "Well, sir, ever since I was born 
I have never been free nor ever shall be free to go to Florida for my health. Your 
freedom has been restrained for a week — mine for a lifetime." As Sidney and 
Beatrice Webb point out: "There is no freedom where there is no opportunity of 
taking advantage of it." Soviet Communism: A New Civilization, p. 1034. 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle 231 

of all the people.^" In addition, the proletariat will gain a negative free- 
dom: freedom from exploitation. 

The nature of capitalist freedom was recognized long ago. For in- 
stance, in his criticism of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man 
(April 24, 1793), Maximilien Robespierre declared: "You have multi- 
plied articles to ensure the greatest freedom in the exercise of property^ 
and have not said a single word to define its legitimate character; so 
that your Declaration seems made not for men, but for the wealthy, the 
monopolists, the stockjobbers and the tyrants."""" And Charles A. Beard 
declares: "The [United States] Constitution was essentially an eco- 
nomic document based upon the concept that the fundamental private 
rights of property are anterior to government and morally beyond the 
reach of popular majorities."'^ Indeed, the basis of all bourgeois free- 
dom is freedom of the market and of exploitation, and the correlative 
freedom of the common people is very largely freedom to be exploited.^^ 

In reality, it is not "freedom" which is in question but rather two 
distinct brands of freedom struggling for ascendancy : freedom of the 
few as over against freedom of the masses. These two kinds of freedom, 
capitalist and democratic, are inversely correlated. Again Charles A. 
Beard observes in his study of early bourgeois tendencies in the United 
States: ". . . the crowning counterweight to 'an interested and over- 
bearing majority,' as Madison phrased it, was secured in the peculiar 
position assigned to the judiciar)', and the use of the sanctity and mys- 
tery of the law as a foil to democratic attacks.""^ Capitalism constricts 

^Speaking of the rise of capitalism, J. L. Hammond and Barbara Hammond ob- 
serve: "For the working classes the most important fact about that wealth was that 
it was wealth in dangerous disorder, for unless these new forces could be brought 
under control of the common will, the power that was flooding the world with its 
lavish gifts was destined to become a fresh menace to the freedom and happiness of 
men." The Town Labourer, jy6o—i832, p. i6. 

^"See R. W. Postgate, Revolutions from i/8g to 1906, p. 44. 

^Op. cit., p. 324. 

^In their Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels put it in this way: "[The 
bourgeois system] has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of 
numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable 
freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for e.xploitation, veiled by religious and political 
illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation." P. 15. 
And Carl L. Becker illustrates the point further: "For the owners of the English 
cotton mills in the 1830's freedom of contract was a cherished liberty, but for the 
anemic women and children who contracted to work in the mills because the alterna- 
tive was starvation, it was a species of wage slavery." Op. cit., p. 3. To the same 
effect see John Strachey, op. cit., pp. 63-64. It is to this idea of liberty which 
Abraham Lincoln referred in saying: "Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed 
upon a definition of the word 'liberty.' " 

^Op. cit., p. 161. Sometimes even political thinkers of the stature of former Vice- 
President Henry A. Wallace may confuse hopelessly the meaning of freedom and 
democracy as they developed and function in modern society. Says Wallace in his 

232 Caste, Class, and Race 

the freedom of the people, so that they are more or less impotent to act 
in accordance with their own welfare. The people are not free when a 
relatively few masters of industry could deny them the control of their 
resources. Under capitalist freedom the people may not eat or shelter 
themselves unless, in the production of food and shelter, some individual 
makes a profit. On the contrary, democratic freedom aims to put 
power — economic power — into the hands of the people themselves. 
With the achievement of democracy they will, as never before, be able 
to decide how and when their resources should be spent. 

It is interesting to observe the way in which Professor Friedrich A. 
Hayek states the conditions of capitalist freedom : 

It is only because the control of the means of production is divided 
among many people acting independently that nobody has complete 
power over us, that we as individuals can decide what to do with our- 
selves. If all the means of production were vested in a single hand, whether 
it be nominally that of "society" as a whole or that of a dictator, whoever 
exercises this control has complete power over us.^* 

In this passage Hayek does not put the question fairly ; yet it indicates 
very clearly the great fear: the fear of democracy. If the resources, the 
means of production, are vested in "society," the people will not have 
"complete power over us," but rather complete power over them- 
selves.'^ In a "democracy the State will be the political organization of 

great speech, "The Price of Free World Victory," May 8, 1942: "The idea of free- 
dom — the freedom that we in the United States know and. love so well — is derived 
from the Bible with its extraordinary emphasis on the dignity of the individual. 
Democracy is the only true political expression of Christianity." 

-^The Road to Serfdom, p. 104. We shall quote rather extensively from this work 
because it expresses the anti-democratic attitude of the capitalist class quite effec- 
tively. On the question in point Hayek repeatedly makes a spurious analogy between 
a monopolist, as we have come to know this fearful creature, and a democratic 
society: "Our freedom of choice in a competitive society rests on the fact that, if 
one person refuses to satisfy our wishes, we can turn to another. But if we face a 
monopolist we are at his mercy. And an authority directing the whole economic sys- 
tem would be the most powerful monopolist conceivable." Ibid., p. 93. Here the 
purpose appears to be to frighten the people with the prospect that they will create 
a Frankenstein if they were permitted to control their resources. 

For a rather normative discussion of freedom with an obvious inclination to 
identify capitalist individualism with social freedom, see Frank H. Knight, "The 
Meaning of Freedom" and "The Ideal of Freedom," in Charner M. Peri-y, ed., The 
Philosophy of American Democracy. With a similar purpose but more artificial ap- 
proach, see Gerard de Gre, "Freedom and Social Structure," American Sociological 
Review, Vol. XI, October 1946, pp. 529-36. 

^"Sidney and Beatrice Webb, in their discussion of attempts to establish a democ- 
racy in the USSR, observe : ". . . what is being built up in the USSR is not a gov- 
ernment apart from the mass of the people, exercising authority over them. What 
they believe themselves to be constructing is a new type of social organization in 
which the people themselves, in their threefold capacity of citizens, producers and 
consumers, unite to realize the good life. This is in fact not a state in the old sense 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle 233 

all citizens, who are subjects only as instruments of or as obedient to 
the regulations made by themselves."'® Under capitalism the people 
cannot have complete power over themselves for, in their attempts to 
achieve this, they are continually frustrated by private masters. To get 
this power they must first get it over the capitalists and their private 
officials. Moreover, compared with the total population, the individuals 
who control the means of production are not "many" but few.^^ In the 
United States in 1944, 60 per cent of the industrial workers were em- 
ployed by 2 per cent of the manufacturing concerns. In regard to this 
fact and with reference to certain abstract freedoms of British citizens, 
Sir William H. Beveridge concludes: 

This list of essential liberties . . . does not include liberty of a private 
citizen to own means of production and to employ other citizens in oper- 
ating them at a wage. Whether private ownership of means of production 
to be operated by others is a good economic device or not, it must be 
.judged as a device. It is not an essential citizen liberty in Britain, because 
it is not and never has been enjoyed by more than a very small proportion 
of the British people. It cannot even be suggested that any considerable 
proportion of the people have any lively hope of gaining such ownership 

And, indeed, to the extent that these "independent" few control the 
national resources they control our Ha'cs — literally our very existence. 
Here a major freedom is sacrificed in the interest of individualism. But 
the unmistakable tendency of the masses is toward the recapture of that 
major freedom which will give them the right to control themselves 
through the purposeful control of their resources. Even so, however, 
the crux of the matter is not merely the fact of numbers in control ; it 
is rather the question of social motivation and economic interests. J. L. 

of the word, but an organized plan of living which the people as a whole adopt." 
Soviet Communism: A New Civilization, p. 1072. For a time, no doubt, that po- 
litical class — numerically a small minority of the total population — in whose interest 
Professor Hayek is speaking, will surely feel that it is being ruled over. But as other 
vanquished classes have accommodated themselves to new systems, so also we should 
expect this one to become reconciled to democracy. 
^°C. D. Burns, op. cit., p. 283. 

^"If democracy was to live," as Professor Avery Craven sees it historically, "the 
emphasis had to shift from [bourgeois] freedom to equality. If men were to be equal, 
however, they could no longer achieve equality for themselves. Government would 
have to become more active. Democracy would be a choice from then on. It would 
have to be planned if it were to continue to exist. And all this in the face of strong 
men . . . who had no interest or desire for either freedom or equality for anyone 
except themselves." Democracy in American Life, p. 143. 

^ Op. cit., p. 23. It should be mentioned, however, that this argument is not en- 
tirely consistent with capitalism, for a fundamental assumption of capitalism is 
that the means of production should be accumulated by competition in the open 
market as private property — this is capitalist freedom. 

234 Caste, Class, and Race 

and Barbara Hammond, in their discussion of the beginnings of modern 
industrialism, point out : 

The new industry increased human power to a remarkable degree, and 
it seemed to this oligarchy the most natural thing in the world that the 
economic should resemble the political structure, and that in the mill, 'as 
in the State, all this power should be concentrated in the hands of a few 
men, who were to act and think for the rest. Economic science seemed to 
add a sanction to the law of inequality for it showed that the sovereign 
authority of capital was the condition of success in the world trade. In 
industrial as in political life, the mass of men must be content with an 
obedience that asks no questions. Thus the new industry, instead of 
guiding mankind to a new experience of freedoro, common to all classes, 
confirmed the power of the few, and made the mass of men still less their 
own masters. ^^ 

The capitalist minority who contends that the minor freedom, indi- 
vidualism, is the better and more precious one is anti-democratic. It 
should be recognized, however, that on this very ground the modem" 
class struggle is joined, and the final test is ordinarily revolution. In 
this way the people will be called upon to demonstrate conclusively 
"that the mass of mankind has not been bom with saddles on their 
backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them 
legitimately, by the grace of God." To paraphrase one writer: Democ- 
racy gives the people a chance; what they make of that chance is still 
their affair.'^'' 

It is significant that although the reactionary, capitalist economists 
can assure the high bourgeoisie tremendous material values in the con- 
tinuance of capitalism, they have virtually nothing except "freedom" to 
offer the great masses of people. They contend that a hungry man with 
bourgeois freedom is better off than an economically secure worker 
with democratic freedom. Consider in illustration the reasoning of Pro- 
fessor Walter E. Spahr as he opposes a bill to assure employment to the 
workers of the United States : 

Continuing full employment cannot be assured in a jree society [that 
is to say, under capitalism]. If this bill should become law, the probable 
effect would be to discourage rather than to encourage private enterprise. 
. . . The Federal Government will have assumed an explicit responsibility 
for "full" employment, and for unemployment in this country. ... A 
basic question presented to the people of the United States by the Full 
Employment Bill is whether their thinking and activities are to continue 
in the direction of preserving and enlarging the freedom of the individual 

^Op. cit., p. 324. 

""^John Strachey, Socialism Looks Forward, p. 121. 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle 235 

or whether they are to follow those of Socialist-Communist-Authoritarian 

The name calling at the end of the last sentence is a common prop- 
agandistic device. At any rate, the Full Employment Bill is simply 
another attempt of the workers and their leaders to push democracy 
another step forward, and, to be sure, it runs head on into a clash with 
the interests behind "free enterprise." It is, indeed, a bold and tragic 
irony that the most determined antagonist of the common people 
should submit to them the very essence of its privilege and power, 
bourgeois freedom, as a basis of arguments intended to confuse and 
distract them. 

Professor Hayek does the same thing in this way. Says he : 

Even though some workmen will perhaps be better fed, and all will no 
doubt be more uniformly dressed in that new order, it is permissible to 
doubt whether the majority of English workmen will in the end thank the 
intellectuals among their leaders who have presented them with a socialist 
doctrine which endangers their personal freedom. ^^ 

Here the worker is asked to look upon democracy with apprehension. 
The people themselves, it is intimated, will be unable to fashion any- 
thing better than this demi-paradise of bourgeois freedom; they will 
regiment themselves, to their own dissatisfaction and disgust. Thus the 
trend toward democracy becomes "the road to serfdom." In fact, one 
corroding fear of modern democracy is that it will reduce all persons 
in the society to the level of the "degenerate masses."^" This, however, 
could never be an end of democracy, for it does not drag down but lifts 

^"Full Employment in Exchange for What?" The Commercial and Financial 
Chronicle, September 27, 1945. (Italics added.) In a two-volume work written 
in collaboration by twenty-one "top-flight economists and businessmen" as a com- 
mission of the National Association of Manufacturers, the conclusion is reached 
"that the authors and contributors base their whole approach on the dignity, 
indeed on the sanctity, of the individual as individual." The American Individual 
Enterprise System, by Commission of National Association of Manufacturers, New 
York and London, 1946, p. xi. It is not, it seems, that we do not like socialism, 
for we have been inevitably going in its direction. Strachey agrees with Spahr 
in this way: ". . . it is perfectly possible to do away with mass unemployment, 
even before the present economic system has been fully abolished; but it can only 
be done by measures which will seriously modify the system, and take an appreciable 
step toward socialism." Op. cit., p. 99. 

^Op. cit., pp. 199-200. For a just, though merciless criticism of Hayek, see Her- 
man Finer, Road to Reaction. Finer's own position, however, is weak; he seems to 
have no sense of the economic potentialities of social systems and of social move- 

^Lecky put this argument characteristically: "One of the great divisions of poli- 
tics in our day is coming to be whether . . . the world should be governed by its 
ignorance or by its intelligence. According to one party, the preponderating power 
should be with education and property. According to the other, the ultimate source 
of power, the supreme right of appeal and control, belongs legitimately to the 

236 Caste, Class, and Race 

up the civilization. In a democracy there will be no need for a "multi- 
tude of ignorant poor." Here progress can have but one meaning: con- 
tinual advancement in enlightenment and physical welfare of all the 

The argument, however, is almost beside the point, for it is not par- 
ticularly that the ruling class fears that the masses lack the ability to 
govern themselves, since it has never taken the initiative in the prepara- 
tion of the people for self-government. Rather it is a self-interested 
objection to any relinquishment of its power to control the social sys- 
tem, power which this class conceives to be naturally beyond the con- 
stitutional right of the people. Democracy is thus thought of as an 
unjust, irrational usurpation — an unconscionable dishonesty — which 
the leaders of the people seek to impose ifpon the rightful and tradi- 
tional owners of the business system. From this point of view democracy 
is wrong, disorderly, and larcenous — a movement which should be and 
ordinarily is put down by the organized might of the capitalist state. 

Individualism and Democracy Incompatible 

Quite frequently, even among persons who call themselves socialists, 
it is not clearly seen that, the greater the advancement of democracy, 
the greater also will be the limitations upon individualism.^* Yet the 

majority of the nation — or, in other words, to the poorest, the most ignorant, the 
most incapable, who are necessarily the most numerous. 

"It is a theory which assuredly reverses all the past experience of mankind. In 
every field of human enterprise, in all the competitions of life, by the inexorable law 
of Nature, superiority lies with the few and not with the many, and success can only 
be attained by placing the guiding and controlling power mainly in their hands, 
. . . Surely nothing in ancient alchemy was more irrational than the notion that in- 
creased ignorance in the elective body will be converted into increased capacity for 
good government in the representative body. , . , The day will come when it will 
appear one of the strangest facts . . . that such a theory was regarded as liberal 
and progressive." Op. cit., pp. 25—26. 

Guido de Ruggiero Duts the same idea in this way: "The evil of democracy is not 
the triumph of quantity, but the triumph of bad quality, which is revealed by num- 
bers no less clearly than by every other manifestation of the democratic spirit." The 
History of European Liberalism, p. 376. (Italics Ruggiero's.) 

^"Some people think," says Joseph Stalin, "that socialism can be consolidated by 
a certain equalization of people's material conditions, based on a poor man's stand- 
ard of living. This is not true. ... In point of fact, socialism can succeed only on 
the basis of a high productivity of labor, higher than under capitalism, on the basis 
of an abundance of products and of articles of consumption of all kinds, on the basis 
of a prosperous and cultured life for all members of the society." Leninism, p. 367. 

^*On this score Max Eastman apparently makes a questionable reference to Karl 
Marx: "Marx was the first to see . . . that the evolution of private capitalism with 
its free market had been a precondition for the evolution of all democratic freedoms. 
It never occurred to him . . . that if this was so, these other freedoms might dis- 
appear with the abolition of the free market." Quoted by Carl L. Becker, op. cit., 
p. 89. 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle 237 

process of democratic development may be defined as a continually in- 
creasing limitation of individual freedom (i.e., individualism) in favor 
of greater social equality and freedom for the masses. Although his pur- 
pose is to condemn democracy, Hayek is essentially right in saying : 

There can be no doubt that most socialists . . . still believe profoundly 
in the liberal ideal of freedom and that they would recoil if they became 
convinced that the realization of their program would mean the de- 
struction of freedom. ^^ 

It must be admitted that the opportunities which bourgeois freedom 
presents, the remote chances of the worker's becoming economically 
powerful and of his ruling over the lives of others privately and indi- 
vidualistically, are precious values of capitalism. Yet nothing should be 
clearer than that we cannot have "freedom," as Professor Hayek con- 
ceives of it — i.e., the laissez faire individualism of capitalism — and have 
democracy also.^® In this regard J. A. Hobson states, ". . . excessive 
stress on individual liberty becomes an obstacle to the true growth of 
democracy."^' Thus, democracy and competitive individualism are in- 
compatible; and the trend of modern civilization is inevitably against 
this sort of freedom. As Henry Pratt Fairchild observes : "What is of 
importance to the modem man is not freedom to do as he likes as an 
individual, but freedom to decide the kind of society he wishes to live 
in. Social liberty is the twentieth-century desideratum. . . . Only 
through social liberty can there be attained that form of personal free- 
dom which is harmonious with the conditions of modem life."^^ 

If the resources of a people are to be controlled by that people in the 
interest of its own welfare, the economic interest of the individual can- 
not be allowed to stand in the way. And, conversely, if the profit- 

"^Op. cit, p. 31. 

^°Lord Acton is responsible for some considerable part of the abstract thinking 
about freedom. He conceives of freedom as a supra-social phenomenon instinctively 
sought after in all times and places as "the highest political end" by men of good 
will, but frequently withheld or defeated by the wicked. Thus, without much regard 
to the social origin of beliefs, Acton asserts: '"By liberty I mean the assurance that 
every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influ- 
ence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion." Op. cit., p. 3. 

The follov/ing is an argument by James Burnham based upon "human nature" as 
a static, instinctual phenomenon out of which "freedom" or "despotism" unfolds: 
"A considerable degree of liberty is not usual in human society. If we review the his- 
tory of humanity, so far as we know it, it is apparent that despotic regimes are far 
more frequent than free regimes, and it would therefore seem that despotism is 
more nearly than freedom in accord with human nature." Op. cit., p. 250. 

^Op. cit., p. 13. 

^Profits or Prosperity, p. 199. 

238 Caste, Class, and Race 

making interest of the entrepreneur is to be served, the welfare of the 
people cannot be allowed to stand in the way, here the people's welfare 
could never become a primary purpose of production. 

Under capitalism a profit maker is free to exploit the human and 
natural resources of the people in his own interest; a slum dweller is 
free to live and die in filth. The new freedom of democracy is the free- 
dom of the people so to govern themselves that they may be able to 
make judgments which can limit these minor freedoms. The people in 
a democracy may decide without hindrance both that slums should be 
cleared and that the individual who makes a profit from slums should 
give up that right. There is a loss of one kind of freedom and a gain of 
another; we cannot have them both. A labor union, the core of 
proletarian action, tends to destroy the freedom of the employer to 
develop and to patronize the cheapest labor market ; it also destroys the 
freedom of the worker to sell his labor in such a market. If "freedom 
from want" is not just another euphonious cliche of "the democracies," 
it must necessarily mean some substitution of proletarian freedom for 
capitalist freedom. Sir William H. Beveridge is in point when, in con- 
sideration of employment specifically, he declares: "To ask for full 
employment while objecting to these extensions of State activity is to 
will the end and refuse the means." ^® It is both a practical and an 
ideological contradiction to desire bourgeois freedom and social equal- 
ity at the same time.*° In the words of Professor Fritz Fleiner, "Demo- 
kratie und individuelle Freiheit sind Gegensdtze/'^^'' 

Sometimes it is intimated that capitalism is basically interested in 
"the fundamental value and dignity" of the individual. This conclusion 
is seldom if ever demonstrated, but it is ordinarily associated with indi- 
vidualism. As a matter of fact, however, democracy is the supreme 
champion of individual worth and personal value because it reaches 
down irresistibly and facilitates the political upthrust of that major 
group of persons known as the masses; it concerns itself with the per- 
sonalization of the least privileged individuals. Democracy tends to con- 

^Op. cit., p. 36. But the significant fact is the inevitability of this trend. As Carl 
Becker points out: ". . . there is really no use in saying we do not want any form 
of collectivism or managed economy ... no use, that is, in saying we do not want 
any sort of governmental regulation of private economic enterprise. We already have 
a good deal of it; and it is about as certain as anything can be that we shall have 
more." Op. cit., p. 106. 

This does not mean to say, however, that every economic activity of a socialist 
state will be finally centralized. In a democracy the people will be the arbiter of any 
question concerning the degree of centralization of production. 

^Cf. Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia, pp. 183-84. 

*°^Schweizerisches Bundesstaatsrecht, p. 25. 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle : — 

fer upon every individual a priceless sense of wantedness in the societ- 
— a sense of being a recognized part of a supremely vital organization. 
By this means alone the individual is able to form a positive conception 
of himself as a responsible social object. On the other hand, individual- 
ism champions the cause of the successful few and of the ablest; it 
despises the weak and jealously withholds its privileges and recognition 
from the common people. 

As we have seen, the social system in which individualism functions 
typically is deaf and icy toward the welfare of individuals who cannot 
compel the attention of the oligarchy. In this system the individual is 
ordinarily presumed to be worthless until he is able to prove his worth. 
Therefore, paradoxically, the greater the measure of capitalist indi- 
vidual liberty, the greater the tendency to define the individual as hav- 
ing no intrinsic social worth. Capitalism seeks to atomize and segregate 
the individuals who constitute the masses of common people, not be- 
cause of an inherent solicitude and respect for the rights and political 
influence of these individuals but because by means of their atomiza- 
tion their political influence and economic power may be nullified. 
Thus, the same ideal of individualism, which augments the dignity and 
power of the members of the ruling class, serves, when applied to the 
masses, as a powerful weapon of oppression and abasement. The value 
which individualism recognizes in the common people is a "use value." 

There seems to be no theoretical reason for believing that in a 
society which abhors individualism the people will feel any need for it. 
Socialism, the system of democracy, is not simply capitalism without 
individualism; it is rather a distinct social system in which bourgeois 
individualism does not function. In a democracy one cannot "spend" 
his individualism because it is not one of the values of democracy. In a 
democracy one derives his life satisfactions through the welfare of his 
fellows and not by "objectively" seeking to wring as much as he can 
out of them for his private enjoyment. Democracy will probably give 
social reality to Christianity, a perennial desideratum of Western 
society. Those highly atomized conflicts and rivalries among individuals 
under capitahsm will be quieted, so that the power of the group will be 
pooled and augmented for the task of mastering its environment ex- 
peditiously and economically. When individualism has lost its claim to 
indispensability in the social system, it may be viewed critically; and 
the likelihood is that it will then seem so absurd that only its disad- 
vantages, which certainly are many, will be emphasized. For it cannot 
be gainsaid that individualism, in its negative aspects, is a separative, 
indifTerent, unbrotherly, selfish, gloating, antagonistic, predatory, 

_) Caste, Class, and Race 
23 C 

social attitude/"" Those who desire individualism with the aboHsh- 
^ent of capitalism are not socialists but anarchists, and consequently 
unpredictable Utopians.*^ 

Capitalism and the Fear of Democracy 

Bourgeois society tends increasingly to become amoral, and conse- 
quently more fearful and militaristic. The morality to which the present- 
day capitalists ordinarily pay lip service is the morality of democracy; 
notwithstanding this, however, their practice and interest must be 
sternly anti-democratic. Thus it becomes exceedingly urgent for capital- 
ist social scientists to attack the social structure of democracy. 

Sometimes it is argued that democratic institutions themselves will 
not work; a democracy may be ruled by the ignorant. Accordingly, 
Hayek stresses the ineffectiveness of democratic assemblies: "The in- 
ability of democratic assemblies to carry out what seems to be a clear 
mandate of the people will inevitably cause dissatisfaction with demo- 
cratic institutions."*^ And he points out further that a people organized 
democratically will have no means of controlling their own resources : 
"For such a task [direction of the resources of the nation] the system of 
majority decision is . . . not suited. ... A democratic assembly vot- 
ing and amending a comprehensive economic plan clause by clause 
. . . makes nonsense. . . . Even if a parliament could, proceeding 
step by step, agree on some scheme, it would certainly in the end satisfy 

^""So, indeed, for example, J. Ellis Baker, historian of the Netherlands, has 
already done in his criticism of the Dutch burgher politicians of the seventeenth 
century: ". . . all sense of national cohesion, of community of interest, of re- 
sponsibility, of duty and of self-sacrifice, had been killed, by an anti-national and 
immoral policy pursued by [the burghers], which, in the name of individualism 
and of utilitarianism, had elevated the part above the whole, had created uni- 
versal anarchy, and had inculcated deliberate and sordid selfishness in all by 
teaching that each individual should work for his own profit, thus increasing to 
the utmost the vice of selfishness . . ." The Rise and Decline of the Netherlands, 
P- 391- 

*^Not even Henry A. Wallace, who wrote a book to emphasize the trend toward 
human welfare in modern society, has been able to abandon one of the horns of this 
dilemma. "Can economic mechanisms be found," he inquires, "which will enable 
all of us over a great continent to work not only for our own ends but for the general 
welfare? . . . Can this be done without losing the personal privileges and liberties 
which we prize as the essence of democracy?" And he answers: "The philosophy of 
the future will endeavour to reconcile the good which is in the competitive, indi- 
vidualistic, and libertarian concept of the nineteenth century and the co-operative 
concepts which . . . seem destined to dominate the late twentieth century." Whose 
Constitution, pp. 308, 311. 

*^Op. cit., p. 62. 

^Ibid., p. 64. 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle 241 

In fact, according to Hayek, a democracy will destroy ikself in the 
very act of attempting to make plans for the utilization of its rt^^sources : 

. . . agreement that planning is necessary, together with the inabili'^y of 
democratic assemblies to produce a plan, will evoke stronger and strc^ g^er 
demands that the government or some single individual should be given 
powers to act on their own responsibility. The belief is becoming more 
and more widespread that, if things are to get done, the responsible 
authorities must be freed from the fetters of democratic procedure.*'* 

Probably as good an illustration as any of the place of democracy, or 
socialism, in the class struggle is the subtle way in which it is sometimes 
identified even with fascism. It should be remembered that it has been 
convenient, during and after World War II, for certain fascists who live 
in "the democracies" to criticize fascism. This practice may have a 
double value: (a) it is likely to divert the attention of the reader from 
the fascist character of the arguments, and (b) it may give the advocate 
an opportunity to transfer any developed antagonism against fascism 
to socialism by identifying socialism with fascism and then directing 
public hate against both of them under some such dissimulative caption 
as "totalitarianism." Observe, for instance, the way in which Professor 
Hayek accomplishes the latter end. First he cites Peter Drucker as 
"justly" expressive of his views: 

The complete collapse of the belief in the attainability of freedom 
and equality through Marxism has forced Russia to travel the same road 
toward totalitarianism, purely negative non-economic society of unfree- 
dom and inequality, which Germany has been following. Not that com- 
munism and fascism are essentially the same. Fascism is the stage reached 
after communism has proved an illusion and it has proved as much an 
illusion in Stalinist Russia as in pre-Hitler Germany.*^ 

To be sure, it cannot be shown that Hitler overthrew a communist 
society in Germany; it is true, however, that he was instrumental in 
overthrowing the democratic efTorts of the Spanish people in favor of 
fascism. This is not a "stage" ; it is a counterrevolution. Indeed, but for 
the wisdom of the Russian leadership, Germany, with the help of the 
capitalist nations, would have done to Russia what she did to Spain. 
The conflict situation here is consistent with the theory of the class 
struggle.'*® At any rate, after preparing his readers with the stereotyped 

"Ibid., p. 67. 

^^Ibid., p. 29; cited from Peter Drucker, The End of Economic Man, 1939, p. 230. 

"Since this device of Hayek and his authority seems to be part of a system of anti- 
Russian antagonism, we shall cite John Strachey's summary of persistent capitalist 
aggression as a means of setting it in its proper perspective: "It is largely we [the 

24^ ._ Caste, Class, and Race 

concept, tbtalitarianism," Hayek proceeds to show "how closely re- 
lated cgj^jYiunism and fascism are : 

I^ is true that in Germany before 1933, and in Italy before 1922, com- 
munists and Nazis or Fascists clashed more frequently with each other 
than with other parties. They competed for the support of the same type 
of mind and reserved for each other the hatred of the heretic. But their 
practice shows how closely they are related. To both, the real enemy, the 
man with whom they had nothing in common and whom they could not 
hope tQ convince, is the liberal of the old type. While to the Nazi the 
communist, and to the communist the Nazi, and to both the socialist, are 
potential recruits . . . they both know that there can be no compromise 
between them and those who really believe in individual freedom.'^'^ 

The counterrevolutionary practices of the fascists, the defenders of a 
decadent capitalist society, and the revolutionary practices of the demo- 
cratic forces within capitalism may evince certain traits which are 
common to them as conflict groups ; it would be sheer nonsense, how- 
ever, to assume that these revolutionary traits identify them as social 
systems. We should emphasize that capitalist reactionaries ordinarily do 
not admire fascism; they accept it only as a last resort in the face of a 
serious threat from democracy. Yet they do not always see clearly that 
fascism is the only retrogressive system available to them at this stage 
in the transformation of capitalism. 

British] and the other capitalist States of the world who have made Russia tough. 
First we made war on her; then we subsidized all the Russian landowners and 
capital owners who had been turned out, to make war on her; then we drew what 
we called a 'sanitary cordon' round her; then we boycotted her; then we refused her 
all credits; then we refused to make common cause with her against the Nazis, hop- 
ing they would attack her. And now people are surprised because she is very tough, 
pretty rough, depends on nobody but herself, and trusts nobody but herself. 

"Russia has been through unspeakable difficulties and sufferings, of which the 
German invasion was only the last: but she has been through them, and has come 
out one of the strongest nations on earth. This giant strength of Russia is built on 
the concrete foundations of a socialist economic system." Op. cit., p. 129. 

*^Op. cit., pp. 29-30. (Italics added.) But observe how Professor Carl L. Becker 
compares the two systems: "Communism is democratic — that is, the dictatorship is 
regarded as temporary, a necessary device for carrying through the revolution, to be 
replaced ultimately by a government of, by, and for the people; Fascism is anti- 
democratic — the dictatorship and the suppression of individual liberties are re- 
garded as permanent. Communism is international — it preaches the brotherhood of 
man and the equality of nations; Fascism is anti-international — it denies the 
equality of nations as well as the equality of individuals, and preaches the supremacy 
of the nation or of the master-race. Communism is pro-intellectual — it declares that 
social progress rests on knowledge, and that knowledge can be attained only by the 
disinterested search for truth; Fascism is anti-intellectual — it regards science and 
the search for truth as of no importance except in so far as they can be used for the 
attainment of immediate political ends." Op. cit., p. 104. 

Modern Democracy and the Class Struggle - 243 

This, then, is what the modem social revolution amounc^s to. It in- 
volves the taking over of the businessman's society, fashioned b;v him in 
his own interest, by the masses of the people who at one time liv -ed in 
that society only by suffrance — lived in it and had value only in so xfar 
as the traders and manufacturers were able to use them in the further- 
ance of business interests. From one point of view it may seem pre- 
sumptuous that the masses of people should now declare that 
"democracy" demands that the material and productive wealth of the 
nation should be taken out of the hands of its traditional heirs, the busi- 
ness oligarchs, and utilized in the interest and welfare of all the people 
— that within the same urban, capitalist milieu the descendants of the 
totally non-political common people should today ask that their voice 
be given equal weight in the control of available economic resources. 
This, however, is exactly what modern democracy means; and it is with 
reference to its achievement that we logically use the phrase, "the com- 
ing new world." 

Democracy, therefore, is the great social movement against which 
the bourgeoisie have been constantly struggling, and in doing so they 
have sought alliance even with the anachronistic feudal ruling class and 
the medieval Church. The achievement of the goal of this movement, 
as we have attempted to show, must necessarily mean the end of capital- 
ism. But with the coming of democracy the people of the world will, 
for the first time, possess a social morality sufficient to cope with their 
advancement in technology. They will then not find it necessary, as 
they now do, to pervert their social scientists in the interest of human 
exploitation ; but rather there will be every reason for encouraging the 
development of a science of human welfare with normal potentialities 
to make contributions to human happiness equal or even greater than 
those of the physical sciences. It is to this end which the distinguished 
British social scientists, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, referred, when they 
wrote : 

The principle of universalism, on which . . . the provision for health, 
schooling, training for life and choice of occupation is based in the USSR, 
with its drastic ousting of all disqualifications of sex or race, inferiority 
of social position or lack of means, necessarily implies a vast unloosing 
of human energy, a great increase in available capacity, and, at least, a 
not inconsiderable development of genius that would otherwise not have 
been able to fructify. ... It looks as if nowhere in the world — not even in 
the United States — is there so much variety and diversity in the choice of 
employments eff"ectively open to every member of the population as in the 
USSR. And this diversity and multiplicity of occupation and employment 

^^44 Caste, Class, and Race 

IS continufcusly increasing with the growth and extension, throughout 
the vast •'area, of an ever more nearly complete social equality. . . .^® 

, ' Jp. cit., pp. 1023-24. 

In corroboration Schuman writes: "The Russian adventure makes a long forward 
Astride toward human mastery of man's fate through the deliberate mobilization of 
collective intelligence for the definition of community goals and the planned applica- 
tion, on a vast scale, of scientific knowledge for social betterment. The blind, plant- 
like growth of folk cultures, and the dynamic but uncontrollable automatism of the 
laissez-faire economies of the early machine age, here give way to the purposeful 
guidance of all activities of production and distribution." Op. cit., p. 582. 

13. A Close-up of the Class Struggle 

preceding three chapters has any value, it is to be found primarily 
in its usefulness as a means of understanding the contemporary maneu- 
vers of the two great political classes. Every day in the newspapers the 
story of the class struggle is being told; ordinarily — since the end of 
World War II especially — some fifty to one hundred per cent of the 
front-page news of the metropolitan dailies is concerned with it. To be 
sure, the news is not always unbiased ; yet it emphasizes the increasing 
tempo and excitement in a colossal struggle for power. In the United 
States this crystallization of class antagonism goes back to the depres- 
sion of 1929 and the administration of President Roosevelt. To study 
Frankhn D. Roosevelt and his administration, therefore, is to have an 
opportunity to observe the deep forces of the class struggle from a par- 
ticularly advantageous point of view. 

Because of his ideology and practice, in part, Roosevelt gave defini- 
tion to the diffused class antagonism and brought the ruling class into 
a desperate consciousness for reaction. As he himself pointed out : "The 
program of the New Deal involved the most controversial social ques- 
tions in the last seventy-five years of our history. Tremendous interests 
were at stake — interests which would hesitate at nothing to gain their 
ends."^ Indeed, not simply individual interests but the very place of the 
capitalist class in the system came immediately into question." 

The coincidence of the personality of Roosevelt with that period in 

^Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roose- 
velt, Vol. 6, p. Ixii. 

"Gerald W. Johnson puts it pointedly: "Popular uprisings are familiar enough in 
our political history. It is part of the techniques of every campaign to assert the 
existence of an uprising, and the party out of power makes every effort to create 
one. But these uprisings are directed against men, or groups, or organizations that 
are supposed to have evaded the law or perverted it to their own use. These upris- 

246 Caste, Class, and Race 

the history of American capitaUsm was an unusual concourse of events. 
He was probably the only man in the United States capable of carrying 
democracy thus far without open violence. He deserted the ruling class 
to become a leader of the social movement. On this John Franklin 
Carter comments: "One of the 'haves' [Roosevelt] has always sided 
with the 'have nots/ and the fact that his college and business as- 
sociates damn him as 'a traitor to his class' simply reinforces the moral 
strength of his position as a man who is -willing to sacrifice his own 
privileges for the general good."^ 

Roosevelt fought under the banner of liberalism, a respectable stere- 
otype, yet most of what he said and did was really democratic and 
consequently socialistic or communistic. Although he was not fully con- 
sistent in his democratic ideology and practice, it was for these that he 
was loved and supported by the masses and hated by the bourgeoisie; 
he was neither particularly loved nor hated for his periodic lapses into 
liberalism and capitalist motivations. Hence, of primary significance to 
us is an analysis of his place in the movement for democracy. 

The Problem and Meaning of Democracy 

Although Roosevelt never saw clearly that the achievement of 
democracy must necessarily involve the liquidation of capitalism, he 
realized that democracy was on its way. "Democracy is not a static 
thing. It is an everlasting march. "^ "The task which this generation had 
to do," he asserted, "has been begun. The forward march of democracy 

ings, therefore, have ... a limited objective — to eject the rascals and to restore the 
law to its purity. These affairs are usually annoying to the party in power and they 
may inflict serious damage upon it; but they are thoroughly understood and so are 
the methods of dealing with them. Therefore the emotional reaction against them 
is confined to irritation with, perhaps, some degree of apprehension, when they seem 
likely to succeed; but they do not arouse bewilderment and wild terror. In 1932, 
however, when it became clear that the blind fury of the dispossessed was striking, 
not at individuals, but at the very system of law itself, panic swept through those 
classes that found the existing system tolerable, if not perfect. It was a new experi- 
ence to this generation." Roosevelt, Dictator or Democrat?, pp. 14—15. 

^The New Dealers, p. 15. (Published anonymously.) 

"Franklin D. Roosevelt," observes Ernest K. Lindley, "was the first American with 
any practical chances of reaching the presidency to grasp the essentials of the dis- 
tributing mechanism of capitalism and at the same time to see that the processes 
which had begun with the industrial revolution had at last brought the United 
States to the point where it was doubtful that this distributing mechanism could 
automatically operate. He had already challenged the laissez-faire system because it 
had concentrated dangerous economic powers in the hands of a comparatively few 
men and made it impossible for millions of other men to rise above poverty or, at 
least, to attain security by their own endeavours." The Roosevelt Revolution, p. 17. 

^Address at Los Angeles, October i, 1935. These citations are mainly from 
Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., op. cit., 9 vols. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 247 

is under way. Its advance must not and will not stop. . . . We shall 
. . . make available the good things of life created by the genius of 
science and technology . . . not for the enjoyment of the few but for 
the welfare of all. For there lies the road to democracy that is strong."^ 
To Roosevelt, then, democracy did not mean mass voting for capital- 
ist devices, but rather the utilization of the economic resources by the 
social group for the welfare of all. Thus he pointed out further : 

For too many of us the political equality we had won was meaningless 
in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into 
their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, 
other people's money, other people's labor — other people's lives. . . . 

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political free- 
dom was the business of the government, but they have maintained that 
economic slavery was nobody's business. . . . Today we stand committed 
to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average 
citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have 
equal opportunity in the market place. ^ 

Moreover, Roosevelt brought out clearly the nature of the negative 
struggle between bourgeois and proletarian freedom in modem civiliza- 
tion. "In the hands of a people's Government this power [economic 
power] is wholesome and proper. But in the hands of political puppets 
of an economic autocracy such power would provide shackles for the 
liberties of the people. Give them their way and they will take the 
course of every autocracy of the past — power for themselves, enslave- 
ment for the public."^ 

Democracy, as we have seen, puts the resources of a people into their 
own hands. It assumes that the people have finally grown up and that 
they and their leaders can assume responsibility for their social destiny. 
Probably the most momentous and courageous decision in modem 
times, a decision taken by a people who were apparently not afraid to 
assume their own social destiny, was that made by the first Congress of 
the Soviet Dictatorship as Lenin announced to it : "We shall now pro- 

^Campaign address at Cleveland, November 2, 1940. 

^Acceptance of the renomination for the presidency, Philadelphia, June 27, 1936. 

''Annual message to Congress, January 3, 1936. And he said further: "Unhappy 
events abroad have retaught us tw^o simple truths about the liberty of a democratic 
people. The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people 
tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their 
democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism. . . . 

"The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business sys- 
tem doSs not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way 
as to sustain an acceptable standard of living. . . . Among us today a concentration 
of private power without equal in history is growing." Recommendations to the 
Congress to curb monopolies and the concentration of economic power, April 29, 

248 Caste, Class, and Race 

ceed to construct the socialist order." At this stage democracy ap- 
proaches the hmit of its consummation. President Roosevelt probably 
sensed such a responsibility when he said: "It is a sobering thing . . . 
to be a servant in this great cause. We try in our daily work to remem- 
ber that the cause belongs not to us, but to the people."^ And he seemed 
dimly to indicate what, in part, will be expected of a people living in a 
modem democracy: 

It is time to provide a smashing answer to those cynical men who say 
that Democracy cannot be honest and efficient. If you will help, this can 
be done. I, therefore, hope you will watch the work in every corner of 
this Nation. Feel free to criticize. Tell me of instances where work can be 
done better, or where improper practices prevail. Neither you nor I want 
criticism conceived in a purely fault-finding or partisan spirit, but I am 
jealous of the right of every citizen to call to the attention of his or her 
Government examples of how the public money can be more effectively 
spent for the benefit of the American people.^ 

This intolerance of criticism against democracy itself becomes ex- 
ceedingly intensified in countries such as Soviet Russia where the 
proletarian revolution has been accomplished. The enemies of democ- 
racy usually take this to mean that all criticism is prohibited in a 
democracy and that all "freedom" of speech is lost. 

Capitalism Prostrate 

But capitalism itself must endure criticism, because it is devoted 
principally to the interest of the few; hence, it must always argue that 
it is superior to a system devoted to the general welfare. A mistake in a 
democracy can only result in self-criticism by the people, but a break- 
down of capitalism involves the responsibility of the dominant political 
class in the system. Moreover, as Roosevelt recognized, from the point 
of view of the people's welfare, the system is leaderless: "We know that 
a leaderless system of economy had produced and would again produce 
economic and social disaster. Private leadership has been non-existent 
from the point of view of seeking the objectives of national welfare."^" 
And he constantly described the far-reaching consequences of the col- 

Four years of continuing fear of losing capital, of losing savings, of 
losing jobs, had developed under the deadening hand of the depression 

^Acceptance of the renomination for the presidency, Philadelphia, June 27, 1936. 

^"Fireside Chat," April 28, 1935. 

^"In introduction to Public Papers, etc., op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 9. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 249 

into fear of eviction from homes and farms, and fear of actual starvation. 
Millions of people, gripped by this greater fear, had begun to feel that the 
machinery of modern American economics and government had broken 
down so completely . , . that an entirely new^ type of mechanics for exist- 
ence would have to be invented. ^^ 

The social problem involves not so much the fact of social misery as 
it does some consciousness among the people that there is no need for its 
existence. In a similar discussion the President declared: "It is not in 
despair that I paint you that picture . . . because the Nation, seeing 
and understanding the injustice of it, proposes to paint it out."^" 

The New Order 

Thus Roosevelt set out to "find practical controls over blind eco- 
nomic forces and blindly selfish men."^^ In this he found the masses of 
the people very much in accord with him ; they wanted not only escape 
from the depression but also a new order of things. 

The American people responded to the call for action with eager 
enlistment — enlistment in the struggle against ruthless, self-seeking, reck- 
less greed and economic anarchy. ... It is very certain that the American 
people understood that the purpose of the reorganization was not only to 
bring back prosperity. It was far deeper than that. The reorganization 
must be permanent for all the rest of our lives in that never again will 
we permit the social conditions which allowed the sections of our popula- 
tion to exist in an un-American way, which allowed the maldistribution 
of wealth and power. '^^ 


"Second inaugural address, January' 20, 1937. 

"Ibid. "We believe," he said, "that people are even more important than ma- 
chines. We believe that the material resources of America should serve the human 
resources of America." Campaign address at Providence, October 21, 1936. 

J. A. Hobson, the British economist, comments on this attempt of Roosevelt to 
subordinate profits to social welfare as follows: "It is an attempt to put capitalism 
on a low or no-profit basis. If capitalists were alive to the full implications of the 
policy, they might accept it as the sole alternative to industrial collapse. Or, if they 
were capable of a sustained sacrifice of profit to national recovery and in the spirit 
of chivalrous leadership which idealists have sometimes envisaged, they might ac- 
cept. But the success of the appeal either to reason or to patriotism is exceedingly 
unhkely. For it implies a change in thought and in heart so big and so rapid as to 
constitute a spiritual miracle. And miracles do not happen . . . the whole trend of 
thought and sentiment during the past century of capitalism has been closed to such 
a revolution. To cut profits out of the capitalist system would be to the great ma- 
jority of businessmen to remove the lynch-pin from the chariot of economic progress. 
... A voluntary surrender of profits in order to retain the empty form of capitalist 
control must be dismissed as a psychological impossibility." Op. cit., pp. 59-60. 

"Extemporaneous address before the code authorities of six hundred industries, 
March 5, 1934. 

250 Caste, Class, and Race 

As he saw it, the new order should be devoted to the people's welfare 
and not to the enhancement of profits. In a "fireside chat" on October 
22, 1933, he put the question to the nation in this way: "How are we 
constructing the edifice of recovery — the temple which, when com- 
pleted, will no longer be a temple of money-changers or of beggars, but 
rather a temple dedicated to and maintained for a greater social 
justice, a greater welfare for America — the habitation of a sound eco- 
nomic life?"^^ Thus, he decided "to use the instrumentalities and pow- 
ers of Government" to achieve the new order and outspokenly dis- 
avowed any intention of leaving the social system to be regulated by 
"economic laws." "I have no sympathy" said he, "with the professional 
economists who insist that things must run their course and that human 
agencies can have no influence on economic ills."^® 

The Ruling Class 

However, Roosevelt was not so naive as to assume that he could re- 
construct the society according to the ideals of democracy without the 
fierce antagonism and opposition of the capitalist ruling class. His ad- 
dresses to the people were fighting words, and he described the traits 
of the bourgeoisie as effectively as Karl Marx ever did : 

Plenty is at our doorstep, but the generous use of it languishes in the 
very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because rulers of the exchange 
of mankind's goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their 
own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. 
Practices of unscrupulous money-changers stand indicted in the court of 
public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men. 

True, they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern 
of an outworn tradition. . . . Stripped of the lure of profits by which to 
induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to 
exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only 
the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when 
there is no vision the people perish. The money-changers have fled from 
their high seats. . . . The measure of restoration lies in the extent that we 
apply social values more noble than mere monetary profits. ^^ 

^^Moreover, he asserted: "We have ... a clear mandate from the people, that 
Americans must forswear that conception of the acquisition of wealth which, through 
excessive profits, creates undue private power over private affairs and, to our mis- 
fortune, over public affairs as well." Annual message to Congress, January 4, 1935. 

""Fireside Chat," July 24, 1933. 

"Inaugural address, March 4, 1933. 

It should be observed that frequently the reactionary power of capitalist pressure 
groups has forced even President Truman, a man not known particularly for his 
concern with democracy as a fighting cause, to point out to the people of the United 
States the anti-social motives of big businessmen. In one of his speeches, his radio 
address on the meat shortage, October 14, 1946, he said: "The responsibility rests 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 251 

The way in which Roosevelt recognized the increasing concentration 
of wealth in the hands of a few is of significance ; it is a sort of fruition 
of the predictions of certain social scientists of the latter half of the 
nineteenth century. Thus he declared : 

. . . out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. 
New kingdoms were built upon concentration and control over material 
things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new 
machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital . . . the whole 
structure of modem life was impressed into the royal service. 

There was no place among the royalty for the many thousands of small 
businessmen and merchants. ... It was natural and perhaps human that 
the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, 
reached out for control of the Government itself. They created a new 
despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service 
new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor and their 
property. . . . 

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the con- 
ditions of their labor — these had passed beyond the control of the people, 
and were imposed by the new industrial dictatorship. . . . Private enter- 
prise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise. ^^ 

Furthermore, Roosevelt perceived clearly the conflict between the 
ambitions of the great businessmen and democracy: "They seek to 
substitute their own will for that of the majority, for they will serve their 
own interest above the general welfare. They reject the greater prin- 
ciple of the greater good for the greater number, which is the comer- 
stone of democratic government." ^^ 

It should be remembered that Roosevelt was speaking from experi- 
ence and that his convictions were immediately determining his policy ; 
he was not a "Marxian dealing in foreign ideologies," As he said, his 

squarely on a few men in the Congress who, in the service of selfish interests, have 
been determined for some time to wreck price controls no matter what the cost might 
be to our people . . . the same few men in the Congress again debated how they 
could do lip service to an anti-inflation program and still scuttle price controls — 
how they could pass a so-called price-control law and, at the same time, take care 
of the interests they wanted to enrich. . . . 

"This group, today as in the past, is thinking in terms of millions of dollars in- 
stead of millions of people. This same group has opposed every effort of this ad- 
ministration to raise the standard of living and increase the opportunity for the 
common man. This same group hated Franklin D. Roosevelt and fought everything 
he stood for. This same group did its best to discredit his efforts to achieve a better 
life for our people." 

"Acceptance of the renomination for the presidency, Philadelphia, June 27, 1936. 

^^Address at Roanoke Island, August 18, 1937. Again: ". . . much of our troubles 
today and in the past few years has been due to a lack of understanding of the ele- 
mentary principles of justice and fairness by those in whom leadership in business 
and finance v/as placed." "Fireside Chat," June 28, 1934. 

252 Caste, Class, and Race 

conclusions were "the result of observations of what the country had 
gone through during the days of false prosperity after the World War 
and the days of darkness after the panic of 1929; and it was the result 
especially of [his] experience as governor during four difficult years."'° 
Furthermore, these conclusions are consistent with the historical posi- 
tion and characteristics of the capitalist ruling class. He challenged the 
power of big business frontally, something which no other president has 
been able to do. John Franklin Carter put the situation graphically : 

The railways, the coal and oil men, the iron and steel industries, and 
their bankers formed a Hindenburg line which had wrecked previous 
offensives. They had forced Theodore Roosevelt to back down and take 
the round-about and ineffective route of Trust-busting. They had smashed 
Woodrow Wilson's efforts at control. They had for bloody generations 
ruled themselves, shooting down strikers, circumventing laws, buying 
Governors and State Legislators, dictating to the Federal Government, 
secure in the knowledge that American life could not go on without steel, 
fuel and transportation, and that in any showdown Washington would 
have to "come to Poppa" !^^ 

The Lines of Battle 

Roosevelt joined the bourgeoisie in a bloodless conflict, always, how- 
ever, recognizing the tremendous power of the latter. Accordingly he 
exclaimed: ". . . here in America we are waging a great and success- 
ful war. It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic 
demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of 
democracy.""" This is, to interject, the only war between the two great 
political classes — in fact, this is the very basis of the class struggle. The 
great capitalists are bent upon the strangulation of democracy, which 
they like to call communism, while the masses of the people, the 

""Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 4. 

=^Op. cit., pp. 30-31. 

In a further characterization of the ruling class Roosevelt said: ". . . the most 
vociferous opponents of reform in this small minority were actuated not by any 
conscientious apprehension about further recovery, but by a realization that their 
own economic control and power, which they had enjoyed during the so-called 
boom era, were being destroyed. Through speculative use of other people's money, 
through the exploitation of labor which could not bargain on equal terms, through 
unrestrained power to manipulate corporate securities, finances and devices, this 
handful of men had been able to build up economic empires for themselves, which 
not only controlled the labor, property and lives of thousands of their fellow 
citizens, but in some cases dominated the process of Government itself. . . . To 
promote their own advantage, they began a vast, expensive campaign of propa- 
ganda to appeal to the electorate of the nation to stop the whole program of re- 
form." Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., op. cit.. Vol. 3, p. 5. 

''^Acceptance of the renomination, Philadelphia, June 27, 1936. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 253 

proletariat, are determined that democracy should be attained. There- 
fore, the President felt keenly the counterblows. Said he : 

Never before in all our history have these forces [business and financial 
monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, war profiteer- 
ing] been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are 
unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred. I should 
like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfish- 
ness and of lust for power met their match; I should like to have it said of 
my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.'^ 

However, Roosevelt took confidence in the fact that his position was 
not unique, but that he was merely part of a continuing process of 
struggle against the ruling class for democracy. "Andrew Jackson," he 
observed, "was compelled to fight every inch of the way for the ideals 
and the policies of the Democratic Republic. . . . An overwhelming 
proportion of the material power of the Nation was arrayed against 
him. The great media for the dissemination of information and the 
moulding of public opinion fought him. Haughty and sterile intel- 
lectualism opposed him. ... It seems sometimes that all were against 
him — all but the people of the United States.""^ 

It is significant that Roosevelt touched upon the pith of the morality 
of the class struggle — the intolerance of the masses for a system which 
cannot concern itself primarily with social well-being. "We are begin- 
ning to abandon our tolerance of the abuse of power by those who be- 
tray for profit the elementary decencies of life."" 

Sometimes he almost seemed to believe that he had conquered capi- 
talist power in the United States, for he said in his second inaugural 
address, January 20, 1937: ". . . we have begun to bring private 
autocratic powers into their proper subordination to the public's gov- 
ernment. The legend that they were invincible — above and beyond the 
processes of democracy — has been shattered. They have been chal- 
lenged and beaten." However, capitalist power has many more lives; it 
is not vanquished so easily. Reviewing his struggle at a later date, he 
saw that the leaders of big business were merely regrouping and clos- 
ing ranks for more fanatical resistance. 

Although few in number, they had the resources which enabled them 
to make the most noise, and to become the most vociferous in the press, 

^Campaign address at Madison Square Garden, New York City, October 31, 

^Address at the Jackson Day dinner, Washington, D.C., January 8, 1936. On this 
same occasion the President remarked: "We are at peace with the world; but the 
fight goes on. Our frontiers today are economic, not geographic. Our enemies of 
today are the forces of privilege and greed within our own borders." 

^Second inaugural address, January 20, 1937. 

254 Caste, Class, and Race 

over the radio, through the newspapers and outdoor advertising, by floods 
of telegrams and letters to the Congress, by employment of professional 
lobbyists, by all the many means of propaganda and public pressure which 
have been developed in recent years. 

In 1938 the efforts of this minority, consistent in its opposition since 
1933, rose to new heights. They had tried stubbornly at the polls in 1936 
to stop the program of reform. They had failed. They had tried in 1937 
to stop it in the courts, where they had been so successful during 1935 and 
1936. Here, too, they had failed. Therefore, through the years of 1937 
and 1938, their activities to impede progress and to bring about a repeal 
or emasculation of the New Deal measures of reform were redoubled. ^^ 

Probably the most irritable aspect of Roosevelt's struggle with the 
ruling class was his attempt to counter its deceptive propaganda — its 
reliance upon the theory that if a lie is big enough and it is told fre- 
quently enough the people will believe it. The capitalists do not have a 
morality, hence they must use the moral values of the masses themselves 
in their propaganda against the masses. "It is the old strategy of 
tyrants," the President observed, "to delude their victims into fighting 
their battles for them."^^ 

Their principal device was, and still is, to identify themselves with 
the United States and every conceivable thing that is worth while in it 
— indeed, to identify themselves with God Himself — so that an attack 
against them and their system becomes ipso facto an attack against God 
and Society. In their propaganda they take it for granted that their 
interests must be the interests of all good Americans; therefore, only 
the "un-American" would be so treasonous as to question the basis of 
those interests. "These economic royalists complain that we seek to 
overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of 
is that we seek to take away their power."^^ It is a fact, however, that, 
since the institutions of capitalism are mainly built about capitalists, 
the overthrow of the capitalists will, in a sense, overthrow the institu- 
tions also. In their place, democratic institutions will necessarily be 

^Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., op. cit., Vol. 7, pp. xxi-xxii. 

^Campaign address at Madison Square Garden, New York City, October 31, 

^^Acceptance of the renomination for the presidency, Philadelphia, June 27, 1936. 
This, it should be observed, is the crucial intent of communism, the taking over of 
the economic power of the State by "the people" and the purposeful direction of 
urban civilization in the interest of all the people. Violence is not communism; yet it 
is historically certain that at a given stage of discontent of the people any immedi- 
ate decision to accomplish this democratic purpose will be met by the unrestrained 
violence of the ruling class. The apparent advocacy of violence by the communists 
is essentially a warning that the violence of the ruling class will have to be reckoned 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 255 

Today the ruling class almost never attacks democracy frontally; it 
attacks "communism" instead. It has built up a horror stereotype about 
communism which it easily transfers to the democratic efforts of the 
people. The propaganda carefully guards the people against a realiza- 
tion that democracy is in fact communism — that the struggle against 
democracy is identical with the struggle against communism. In this 
use, communism is the principal negative stereotype under which the 
capitalists wage war against democracy. "The attack used [by those 
who mistrusted democratic government] was a name-calling barrage 
of propaganda, charging that whatever the duly elected executive and 
legislative representatives tried to do was 'regimentation' or 'com- 
munism' or 'dictatorship.' "'^ 

Since the ruling class cannot safely attack democracy itself, it fre- 
quently accepts the term and seeks to identify it with capitalism, so that 
the people are confused in the belief that this class, in championing its 
own cause, is in fact supporting democracy. Roosevelt was exasperated 
by these tactics of the bourgeoisie, and he said to the people : "They 
profess adherence to the form, but, at the same time, their every act 
shows their opposition to the very fundamentals of democracy. They 
love to intone praise of liberty, to mouth praises about the sanctity of 
our Constitution — but in their hearts they distrust majority rule because 

^Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., op. cit., Vol. 6, p. Ixi. 

Dictatorship, as we have already noted, is not a form of social organization. In so 
far as the modern class struggle is concerned, it may arise spontaneously at a certain 
stage and as a part of the conflict. The following remarks by Roosevelt indicate the 
temper of the social situation which produces a proletarian dictatorship : "I am pre- 
pared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken na- 
tion in the midst of a stricken world may require. These measures, or such other 
measures as the Congress may build out of its experience and wisdom, I shall seek, 
within my constitutional authority, to bring to speedy adoption. 

"But in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and 
in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear 
course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask Congress for the one remain- 
ing instrument to meet the crisis — broad Executive power to wage a war against 
the emergency, as great as the power that would be given me if we were in fact in- 
vaded by a foreign foe. . . . 

"We do not distrust the future of essential democracy. The people of the United 
States . . . have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action. They 
have asked for discipline and direction under leadership. They have made me the 
present instrument of their wishes. . . . May [God] guide me in the days to come." 
Inaugural address, March 4, 1933. 

Had the situation continued to develop so that Roosevelt had assumed "war 
powers" against the ruling class — "the emergency," as he called it — and had he 
been convinced about the destiny of democracy, there would have been a dictator- 
ship of the proletariat in the United States. A successful counteraction of the rul- 
ing class would have undoubtedly resulted in a fascist dictatorship. 

On this J. A. Hobson's observation is interesting. Says he: ". . . the emergency 
will not pass. For it is an expression, not of a passing disturbance in the business 
system, but a permanent vice in that system, concealed in its earlier stages but now 
openly manifest." Op. cit., p. 39. 

256 Caste, Class, and Race 

an enlightened majority will not tolerate the abuses which a privileged 
minority would seek to foist upon the people as a whole."^" A common 
practice is to identify the democratic state with the struggle for democ- 
racy, and this ordinarily leads to confusion — in the anti-democratic 
propaganda the confusion is intentional,^^ 

Then, too, finding that Roosevelt had become a symbol of the cause 
of democracy, a champion of the common people, this class sought to 
set up its politicians as Roosevelt men. On being elected to office, they 
fought the President from within. Roosevelt had to take to the field in 
congressional elections in order to warn the people of these "traitors of 
democracy." As he pointed out: 

The blunt fact is that these men were deliberately repudiating the very 
principles of progress which they had espoused in order to be elected — 
and which were, in some cases, the only reason that they had been elected. 
... It is a comparatively simple thing for a nation to determine, by its 
votes, whether it chooses the liberal or the conservative form of govern- 
ment. On the other hand, a nation can never intelligently determine its 
policy, if it has to go through the confusion of voting for candidates who 
pretend to be one thing but who act the other.^^ 

Another old and deceptive trait of the bourgeoisie is their conscious 
and deliberate production of intergroup prejudice among exploited 
peoples ; it is, as we shall attempt to show in a later chapter, the key to 
an understanding of race prejudice and antagonism. In the struggle 
against democracy, heavy reliance is put upon these tactics. Success in 
it results in almost complete distraction of the proletariat from its funda- 
mental democratic efforts. In a Labor Day address at Denton, Mary- 
land, in 1938, the President had to deal with one instance of this: 

. . . the strategy of the cold-blooded few to divide and conquer, to make 
common men blind to their common interests, becomes more active. Class 
conscious itself . . . that small minority is deliberately trying to create 
prejudice between this and that group of the common people of America. 
You . . . have in recent weeks been treated to a number of examples of 

^"Address at Roanoke Island, August 18, 1937. 

^William Randolph Hearst, perhaps the most insistent crusader against democ- 
racy in the United States, has reached some sort of perfection in this duplicity with 
his expression "red fascism." Under this banner he attacks the people's struggle for 
demxocracy in this way: "[The proletariat of ancient Rome] was without property of 
any kind, and without the constructive or executive ability to acquire any. . . . The 
truth is that government by the proletariat, government by the least capable and the 
least conscientious element of the community — government by the mob, government 
by ignorance and avarice ... is the fearful failure that it needs must be and 
definitely deserves to be." See his full-page article in the Chicago Tribune, Novem- 
ber 29, 1946. Readers familiar with Mein Kampf will observe how closely this echoes 
the Nazi doctrines. 

^''Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., op. cit., Vol. 7, pp. xxvii, xxxi. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 257 

this deliberate attempt to create prejudice and class feeling which can be 
charitably explained only as political hysteria. But it does not help the 
cause of . . . effective democracy anywhere to laugh off such things in 
campaign time on the general theory that anything is fair in love and 

Today above all else that minority is trying to drive a wedge between 
the farmers on the one hand and their relatives and logical partners in 
the cities on the other. It is trying to narrow the broad definition of "labor" 
in the mind of the farmer, who above all people has always known what 
it means to have to labor from sun-up to sun-down. It is trying to make 
the farmer forget that the people in the cities who, like him, labor for their 
daily bread are his own people. 

Roosevelt, a Reformer 

And yet this great advocate of democracy never seemed to have 
visualized the end of the road over which he was traveling. He sought 
the subjugation of the power of big business in the interest of democ- 
racy, but he apparently did not recognize the insatiable demands of 
democracy for the final liquidation of private business enterprise — for 
the complete conquest of power by the people. Thus he remarked char- 
acteristically : 

No one in the United States believes more firmly than I in the system of 
private business, private property and private profit. ... If the Adminis- 
tration had the slightest inclination to change that system, all that it would 
have had to do was to fold up its hands and wait — let the system continue 
to default to itself and to the public. ^^ 


Because we cherished our system of private property and free enterprise 
and were determined to preserve it as the foundation of our traditional 
American system, we recalled the warning of Thomas Jefferson that "wide- 
spread poverty and concentrated wealth cannot long endure side by side 
in a democracy." Our job was to preserve the American ideal of economic 
as well as political democracy against the abuse of concentration of eco- 
nomic power.^^ 

Sometimes Roosevelt seemed to think that he was merely adjusting 
the old system so that it might function better: "What we seek is bal- 
ance in our economic system — balance between agriculture and in- 
dustry, and balance between the wage earner, the employer and the 
consumer. We seek also balance that our internal markets be kept rich 

^Radio campaign address to dinners of businessmen held throughout the nation, 
October 23, 1936. 

**Campaign address at Chicago, October 14, 1936. 

258 Caste, Class, and Race 

and large, and that our trade with other nations be increased on both 

Sometimes, also, in his reformist mood, he seemed to become Uto- 
pian: "The task of reconstruction which we undertook in 1933 did not 
call for the creation of strange values. It was rather finding the way 
again to old, but somewhat forgotten, ideals and values. Though the 
methods and means and details may have been in some instances new, 
the objectives were as permanent and as old as human nature itself."^^ 

It is this fact of limited insight in Roosevelt which, in a sense, makes 
him a part of the historical data in the great world transformation of 
capitalist Western society to democracy. He himself quotes John Stuart 
Mill on socioeconomic determinism: 

History shows that great economic and social forces flow like a tide over 
communities only half conscious of that which is befalling them. Wise 
statesmen foresee what time is thus bringing and try to shape institutions 
and mould men's thoughts and purposes in accordance with the change 
that is silently coming on.^'' 

Yet the "tide of social forces" seemed to have flowed even past Roose- 
velt and left him grappling with straws on the shores of time. Years 
before the slow-up in Roosevelt's democratic militancy, in 1934, John 
Franklin Carter observed: ". . . the revolution will get ahead of cur- 
rent revolutionaries and either leave them behind as embarrassed con- 
servatives or rush them headlong into real radicalism."^^ 

Roosevelt, at any rate, was not to be rushed into "real radicalism." 
Here and there the impatience of the people irked him, and he seemed 
constrained to deal with them in almost the same terms as those used by 
the business interests to stop him. "In some quarters," he said, "labor 
had gone too far in its demands and in its conduct, especially with re- 
spect to sit-down strikes."^^ 

However, it is in his address to the American Youth Congress on 
February i o, 1 940, that Roosevelt showed most clearly his concern for 

^Extemporaneous address before the code authorities of six hundred industries, 
March 5, 1934. 

^"Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., op. cit.. Vol. 2, pp. 9-10. 

''Address deHvered at Savannah, November 18, 1933. 

^Op. cit., p. ix. 

Concerning Martin Luther's antagonism to the radical movement of the German 
peasantry, Stefan Zweig observes similarly: "The fate of every revolutionary is that 
he who wishes to replace the old order by the new has to let loose the forces of 
chaos, and he risks being outstripped by others yet more radical than he, who will 
make confusion worse confounded." Triumph und Tragik des Erasmus von Rotter- 
dam, trans, by Eden and Cedar Paul, Erasmus, p. 190. 

^Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., op. cit.. Vol. 7, p. xxiii. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 259 

the spreading radical temper of the youth of the nation and his absorp- 
tion of the capitalist propaganda on "communism." He addressed the 
group in Washington on the White House lawn — conscious of its sym- 
pathies. His remarks should be quoted at length, for they are significant 
in understanding certain complications of the class struggle in the 
United States. 

I think [he said] that some of us realize that if we had a different form 
of Government this kind of a meeting on the White House lawn could 
not take place. . . . 

Do not seek or expect Utopia overnight. Do not seek or expect a 
panacea — some wonderful new law that will give to everybody who needs 
it a handout — or a guarantee of permanent remunerative occupation of 
your own choosing. . . . Take, for example, the question of the employment 
of old people and the employment of young people. . . . 

... let me make it very clear in the beginning that it is not at all certain 
that your opportunities for employment are any worse today than they 
were for young people ten years or twenty years or thirty years ago. 

I suggest . . . that on social and economic matters you and I are sub- 
stantially in agreement as to the objective, but that there are some of you 
who think that objective can be gained overnight. I do not. 

... do not as a group pass resolutions on subjects which you have not 
thought through and on which you cannot possibly have complete knowl- 
edge ... in the field, for example, of national defense or international 
economics. . . . Such a decision ought not to be influenced by any gather- 
ing of old people or young people, or anybody else, local or national, who 
get a smattering of the subject from two or three speakers. . . . 

One of the big local American Youth Congress Councils . . . took a 
decisive stand against the granting of American loans to Finland ... on 
the ground that such action was "an attempt to force America into the 
imperialist war." My friends, that reasoning was unadulterated twaddle 
based ... on ninety per cent ignorance of what they are talking about. 

I can say this to you with a smile. . . . Here is a small Republic in north- 
ern Europe, which, without any question whatsoever, wishes solely to 
maintain its own territorial and governmental integrity. Nobody with any 
pretense at common sense believes that Finland had any ulterior designs 
on . . . the Soviet Union. . . . Please do not pass resolutions of this 
kind. . . . 

I disliked the regimentation under Communism. I abhorred the indis- 
criminate killings of thousands of innocent victims. I heartily deprecated 
the banishment of religion. . . . The Soviet Union ... is run by a dictator- 
ship as absolute as any other dictatorship in the world. It has allied itself 
with another dictatorship, and it has invaded a neighbor so infinitesimally 
small that it could do no conceivably possible harm to the Soviet 
Union. . . . 

It has been said that some of you are Communists. ... As Americans 
you have a legal and constitutional right to call yourselves Commu- 
nists. . . . You have a right peacefully and openly to advocate certain 

26o Caste, Class, and Race 

ideals of theoretical Communism; but as Americans you have not only a 
right but a sacred duty to confine your advocacy of changes in law to the 
methods prescribed by the Constitution of the United States — and you 
have no American right, by act or deed of any kind, to subvert the Govern- 
ment and the Constitution of this Nation. 

Although it has been very much a part of the class struggle in the 
United States, we shall not discuss the President's views about Finland. 
Later developments must certainly have given the American Youth 
Congress the last "smile."^° "Democracy is on the march," Roosevelt 
recognized clearly, but it should not be allowed to march too quickly. 
His statement that he did not expect it to be achieved "overnight" is 
obviously an extreme, rationalizing concession to his own reformist 
temper, for no one had insisted on an "overnight" transformation of 
the system. The point of significance is, however, that he gave the pro- 
tectors of the status quo a moral opportunity to defend the system. If the 
capitalist system cannot be changed "overnight," then it should not be 
changed at all, for the forces which are now limiting change have an 
"admitted" right to continue to do so. Indeed, Roosevelt's admission 
was interpreted to mean that these forces had a moral right to order an 
about turn, to have democracy march in the opposite direction, and to 
silence by law all those who think they "have a right peacefully and 
openly to advocate certain ideals of theoretical Communism." 

Nature of the Reaction 

There are two points which identified Roosevelt, even though re- 
motely, with the reactionaries against whom he struggled. They robbed 
him of consistent resoluteness and left his most confirmed supporters 
the easy prey of the watchdogs of capitalism. He conceived of the Con- 
stitution as something more sacred than the consummate will of the 
people, and he did not clearly realize that democracy is always "sub- 
versive" of capitalism — of the status quo. 

These indecisions made it possible for the capitalists to challenge him 
from the beginning and frequently caused him to deny the very democ- 
racy for which he was struggling. Apparently Roosevelt subconsciously 
feared the consequences of an achieved democracy. What he said and 
did contributed greatly to the final winding up of capitalism ; but, like 
a true reformer, he sincerely believed that his mission was only to make 
the existing system work more felicitously. 

To be sure, he had little opportunity to become a proletarian dic- 

*°For a discussion of the role of Finland in the international struggle against the 
Soviet Union, see Michael Sayers and Albert E. Kahn, op. cit. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 261 

tator in the United States. He was probably more advanced in his 
thinking than any controlHng member of his party or Cabinet, and the 
people as a whole had too little political education to support him 
effectively. Indeed, the great tragedy of Roosevelt's time is that it 
found him with a nation badly prepared intellectually for his plans of 
action in the interest of a democratic society. There was difficulty even 
in finding "socially minded" personnel for the New Deal. He had to 
lead a people who emotionally and physically wanted economic democ- 
racy but who, at the same time, had only a confused understanding of 
it. They were ideologically enslaved by a worshipful reliance upon the 
idea of the social indispensability of "free business enterprise," and 
conditioned by capitalist propaganda to a mortal dread of "com- 
munism."^^ Thus, in the very act of reducing the power of the bour- 
geoisie, Roosevelt had to pay lip service to his allegiance to the welfare 
of capitalism. And now that Roosevelt is gone it is as if the people do 
not know what he really stood for; they wish for him, for leadership of 
his type, but they have, on the whole, no ideological foundation suf- 
ficient to create a clear-cut demand. 

This confusion of the people did not simply happen by chance; it 
was planned. From the time Roosevelt took office a determined effort 
was made by certain members of Congress — who steadily increased in 
number as the depression receded''" — business organizations and indi- 
viduals, and a host of public agencies to smell out, warn, hold up to 
public censure, or discharge from employment any person or group who 
had "communistic" tendencies — that is to say, anyone who dared to 
back the New Deal in Rooseveltian terms. The process was to build up 
in the minds of the people a diffused, horror stereotype of communism 
— utterly false — then to identify the individual or group with it, and 
finally, before the ver\' eyes of the people and sometimes even with 
their approbation, to put his head upon the block. In this way, then, 
the reactionaries fairly completely took every support from under 
Roosevelt; they rooted it out all the way from the members of his 

*^As John Franklin Carter observes: ". . . one of the amazing and disheartening 
effects of the old economic order was its success in breeding generation after genera- 
tion of young conformists and juvenile reactionaries. The private schools and better 
universities of America — far from being the hot-bed of revolution or even the cradle 
of intellectual curiosity concerning the social order — were part and parcel of the 
industrial plant. They turned out unimaginative and unquestioning business men 
stamped in the mould most suited to operate the business machinery as it existed 
and to dread economic radicalism as they would dread the plague." Op. cit., pp. 

^Roosevelt felt the power of reaction more, with increasing recovery: "To hold 
to progress today is more difficult. Dulled conscience, irresponsibility, and ruthless 
self-interest already reappear. Such symptoms of prosperity may become portents of 
disaster! Prosperity already tests the persistence of our progressive purpose." Second 
inaugural address, January 20, 1937. 

262 Caste, Class, and Race 

Cabinet to the least of government employees. In order to maintain the 
sacredness of the status quo the reactionaries forced many persons in 
strategic positions to swear allegiance to the flag and to take oaths of 

A remarkable instance of how the charge of communism has been 
used by persons in different stages of advancement in their tolerance 
of democracy is indicated by Roosevelt's letter (April 17, 1939) to 
Thomas R. Amlie, nominated for a place on the Interstate Commerce 
Commission but withdrawn because of intense opposition to him as a 
communist in a Senate committee. 

Those who have called you a Communist do not perhaps realize that 
such name-calling ill serves the democratic form of Government which 
this Nation as a whole wishes to continue. 

A quarter of a century ago I, too, was called a Communist and a wild- 
eyed radical because I fought for factory inspection, for a fifty-four-hour- 
a-week bill for women and children in industry and similar measures.*^ 

However, the charge of the capitalist politicians that Roosevelt was 
a communist is in its essence correct. His policies and actions the 
potentialities of taking the economy step by step, inch by inch, out of 
the hands of the bourgeoisie and of turning it over to the people as a 
whole ; and this is exactly what is meant by communistic activities. The 
logical conclusion of such a trend must necessarily result in the over- 
throw of the capitalist order. There has probably been no individual in 
the history of the United States who has done so much to bring about 
democracy and therefore communism in the United States as President 
Roosevelt; and there has been no individual so much beloved by the 
people and so much hated by the bourgeoisie as he.*^^ 

^It is interesting to note that Roosevelt does about the same thing to those of 
more advanced democratic thinking than he: "Be it clearly understood . . . that 
-when I use the word 'liberal,' I mean the believer in progressive principles of demo- 
cratic, representative government, and not the wild man who, in effect, leans in 
the direction of Communism." "Fireside Chat," June 24, 1938. 

^"A sociologist, a colleague of the writer, has criticized him for referring to 
Mr. Roosevelt as a communist. It seems, however, that the social scientist cannot 
be too much concerned about dictionary definitions for his identification of social 
phenomena. In so far as the social process involves the democratic tendency, 
Roosevelt may be thought of as the arch- American communist of his age; and 
there is probably no question but that the ruling class conceives of him in this 
way. To be sure, the House committee on un-American activities does not make 
this charge directly, but this is only because the committee fears that to do so 
may lead the public to a realization of the identity of its struggle for democracy 
and communism. 

Consider in illustration the following procedure. In May 1947 the committee 
gave out to the press its sensational findings "that flagrant Communist propaganda 
films were produced in Hollywood 'as a result of White House pressure.' " The 
report left no doubt that "White House" meant the former President Roosevelt. 
The great newspapers played this up as stage setting for a proposed Hollywood 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 263 

To be sure, the businessmen drew their own picture of communism — 
a picture which they themselves did not beheve — and made it every- 
where easily available to the public. Communism, they said, was god- 
less, massacred the people in cold blood for the sport of it, developed 
self-interested dictatorship, and established a society productive only 
of increasing social retardation. By various devices the New Deal was 
identified with this picture and Roosevelt was constantly pressed to 
join the issue on open political class grounds. The opposition, feeling 
sure that it had the "mind" of the public strongly conditioned against 
communism, sought to make him the ideal un-American citizen. In 
defense the President charged: 

. . . there are subversive forces in this country . . . the easiest term to apply 
is to call them the Fascist element in the United States, who are able to 
get very large sums of money quickly into their possession and sweep the 
country off its feet with some kind of a great publicity move before the 
country has an opportunity to think about it one way or the other. The 
people get this tremendous mass of stuff thrown at them. . . .^* 

And yet so effective was this strategy that not even Roosevelt seemed 
to be able to take time to think about its stereotype ; it apparently led 
him to reject communism and, in so doing, contributed to the con- 
witch hunt; and, among these, the Chicago Tribune carried, on June 2, 1947, an 
editorial entitled "Roosevelt's Red Propaganda." Said the editor in part: "Jack 
Warner, head of a motion-picture company, told the congressional committee on 
un-American activities that coercion originating with President Roosevelt forced 
him to produce the film, Mission to Moscow. . . . These latest disclosures are 
enlightening as to Mr. Roosevelt's method but certainly add nothing to what 
the public already knows about his purpose. His purpose, disclosed by a thousand 
acts, was to establish a totalitarian state in America and make himself an Amer- 
ican Stalin." This, then, is what a communist is. The American people know of 
Mr. Roosevelt's interest in the welfare of the masses, but it would be sheer blind- 
ness not to recognize that such a direction of purpose involves today the very 
substance of political-class antagonism — the struggle for power between the people 
and the ruling class. It is possible to make this apparently derogatory identifica- 
tion of Mr. Roosevelt and Stalin only because it can be assumed that the public 
does not understand the nature of the democratic movement. 

"Special press conference with members of the Associated Church Press, Wash- 
ington, D.C., April 20, 1938. 

In this regard J. A. Hobson remarks: "Experience has taught [the conservatives] 
that the working-class movement in politics is innocuous, so long as the mind it 
expresses is the mind of a mob. Their party machinery, their Press, their handling of 
political and social events have, therefore, been continually directed to making and 
preserving a mob-mind, sensational, fluid, indeterminate, short sighted, credulous, 
disunited. In such a mentality there is no will of the people, no effective common 
sense. Under such conditions it is easy for the ruling and possessing classes to con- 
fuse the electorate by dangling before their eyes specious unsubstantial benefits, to 
divide them by conflicting appeals to trade and locality, to subject to undetected 
mutilation any really inconvenient or dangerous reform, and in the last resort to 
draw across the path of policy some great inflammatory national appeal to passion. 
Until the people evolve an intelligent will able to resist those influences, a real 
democracy v/ill continue to be impossible." Op. cit., pp. 105—06. 

264 Caste, Class, and Race 

fusion which his antagonists sought to estabhsh. In a sense they com- 
pelled him to deny his cause. Thus he declared : 

Desperate in mood, angry at failure, cunning in purpose, individuals 
and groups are seeking to make Communism an issue in an election where 
Communism is not a controversy between the two major parties. 

Here and now, once and for all, let us bury that red herring, and de- 
stroy that false issue. ... I repudiate the support of any advocate of Com- 
munism or of any other alien "ism" which would by fair means or foul 
change our American 'democracy.*^ 

This, then, was a positive victory for the bourgeoisie. These tactics 
were — and still are — a very important part of the strategy of the ruling 
class. To have achieved a public denial and expression of contempt for 
communism by the very persons in whom the people, in their quest for 
light on democracy, put their unreserved trust as leaders of great cour- 
age, prescience, and integrity was to suggest a confirmation of the 
horror propaganda about communism. The fact is that it was com- 
munism which was in question as it still is today. What Roosevelt did 
not see was the way in which communism was identified with every- 
thing significant that he conceived to be democracy; and his denying 
that it was simply played into the hands of the reactionaries.^^ 

Involvement of the Schools 

Probably in no other institution is the communist stereotype so care- 
fully guarded as in the schools of the nation ; and the principal method 
of conditioning the faculties is that of investigation and public "ex- 
posure." "The defense of capitalism and nationalism requires that the 
whole system of secondary education and of the universities shall be 
subjected to the emotional bias of patriotism, and that the teaching of 
history, economics, and civics shall be directed to provide intellectual 
defences against the inroads of the new economic and political democ- 

When in the middle of the thirties Roosevelt began to settle his grasp 
on the vitals of the old order, the witch hunt in the schools rose to a 

^^ Address delivered at Democratic State Convention, Syracuse, September 29, 

^'Similar tactics are constantly used, and with some considerable success, to dis- 
rupt the solidarity and blunt the aggressive edge of the CIO. Some of the great news- 
papers and skilled radio commentators play up the conservative, business faction of 
the CIO as respectable American citizens. The democratic faction, which centers its 
attention on the welfare of the masses of workers, is called communist. The top 
leaders of the CIO have developed no decisive answer to this, but ordinarily allow 
themselves to be put on the defensive in answering questions as to the unions' plans 
for "getting rid of the communists" within their ranks. 

*^J. A. Hobson, op. cit., p. 109. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 265 

feverish pitch. Its methods may be illustrated by an "inquisition" at 
the University of Chicago. 

A multimillionaire chain-drugstore owner, Charles Walgreen, found 
the incident which justified an investigation by an Illinois State Senate 
committee into the charge that "subversive communistic teachings and 
ideas advocating violent overthrow" of the government were being 
"instilled in the minds of many students of certain tax-exempt colleges 
and universities in the state." Walgreen's niece, Lucille Norton, eight- 
een years of age, entered the University of Chicago in the fall of 1934; 
and through her he made the following discovery, which he gave in 
testimony at the Senate committee's investigation in Chicago, May 13, 

After attending the University of Chicage for a time her thoughts as 
disclosed by her conversation centered on communism and its various 
tendencies. During her first quarter at the University, Social Science was 
a compulsory subject. Among the selected readings, it required in the 
syllabus of it the Communist Aianijesto by Karl Marx and F. Engels, in 
which the institution of the family, as we know it, is belittled and criti- 
cized and its alleged sacredness ridiculed. She took the course and the 
required reading, and it was during this period that she told me that the 
family as an institution was disappearing. . . . 

We were discussing communism and capitalism and lightly I said to 
Lucille: "You are getting to be a communist," and she said, "I am not 
the only one — there are lots more on the campus." 

I said to Lucille, "Do you realize that this means the abolition of the 
family, the abolition of the church, and especially do you realize it means 
the overthrow of our government?" And she said, "Yes, I think I do, but 
doesn't the end ever justify the means?" 

"Don't you realize this means bloodshed?" I said. Again she said, "Yes, 
but how did we get our independence — wasn't it by revolution?" 

"Well, Lucille, are they really teaching you these things over at the 
University?" I asked. And she said, "No, I don't think they are teaching it 
to us." 

"Are they advocating these things?" and she said, "No, not exactly." 

"Well," I said, "where do you get all these radical ideas?" 

"Well," she said, "we have a lot of reading on communism." 

Walgreen withdrew his niece from the university and the newspapers 
took up his cause, intimating in various ways that the communists had 
captured the University of Chicago. The sensation led to the investiga- 

At the hearing the president of the university, Robert M. Hutchins, 
said in part : 

I have the complete outlines of 161 of these courses [on social, political, 
and economic problems]. There is nothing subversive in them. ... I call 

266 Caste, Class, and Race 

your attention particularly to the syllabus in Social Science I, the general 
course taken by Freshmen and Sophomores. The references to Communism 
are entirely to books; these books discuss different views of the subject. . . . 
The members of the Faculty are law-abiding, patriotic citizens. Some of 
them, of course, are dissatisfied with the current economic, social, and 
political conditions in this country. But they all believe in orderly change 
under the law. 

None of them advocates or has advocated the violent overthrow of the 
government. . . . The University . . . would dismiss any professor who . . . 
was found to have advocated the overthrow of the government by violence. 
Anybody who thinks that any of our faculty is doing so should inform the 
State's attorney so that a prosecution may be instituted. 

Charles E. Merriam, chairman of the Department of Political 
Science, defended his position in this wise : 

I am Chairman of the Department of Political Science, and am chiefly 
responsible for the type of civic education in the University of Chicago. 
. . . When did I become subversive or begin the overthrow of the American 
Government? ... I am responsible for the selection and retention of Dr. 
Schuman [charged by Walgreen with advocating "free love"]. . . . He is 
not a Communist or a Socialist. There are doubtless some who think 
badly of him for voting for Roosevelt in the last election, but I am unable 
to regard that as subversive or unconstitutional. He once allowed his name 
to be used on a document he had not read, but many better men have 
made worse mistakes. . . . 

If there is unrest in the land, and there is, and if many men in the bitter- 
ness and discontent reach out blindly in a feverish struggle to find a way 
out, then seek out the causes of discontent and cure them.*^ 

No specific recommendation for dismissal was made by the commit- 
tee, but it is obvious that the university remained on probation. At the 
"trial" Albert Durand, a representative of the American Legion, ex- 
claimed: "... a red flag floats on the University of Chicago." All this 
the president and the faculty had to deny. No one dared to say that the 
American people had a right to revolt if they wanted to; no one ex- 
plained what the overthrow of the government really meant. The value 
of these witch hunts is to elicit a public denial of any communistic 
tendencies on the part of the faculty and to condition it to shy away 
from any investigation of vital social problems unless it is apparent that 
its conclusions will be in glorification or in resigned acceptance of the 
status quo. 

It is fairly certain that the social sciences, having experienced such 
panic and warning, will thereafter tend toward scholastic ruminations 
and statistical refinements of inconsequential details. To the public, 

^The Daily Maroon, May 14, 1935, published at the University of Chicago, car- 
ried a fairly complete report of the hearing. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 267 

communism, a form of social organization, had been identified with 
"criminal revolution" and, since it could not be defended by even "the 
greatest social scientists in the world," it must be "something" that is 
very bad indeed. With this type of achievement the opportunity for 
understanding the democratic process is partly struck down at its 

The struggle against democracy in the schools is also carried on by a 
careful reading of the books. The War Department's suspension, in 
October 1946, of the use of the economics text prepared from Eco- 
nomics: Principles and Problems, by Professors Paul F. Gemmill and 
Ralph H. Blodgett of the University of Pennsylvania and the Uni- 
versity of Illinois, respectively, may be taken in illustration. The ob- 
jectionable communist material in this book was a suggestion that 
"equality of opportunity" should be instituted by heavy inheritance 
and income taxes and "the extension of social services." The National 
Small Business Men's Association was a leader of the attack against the 
text. On November 1 8, 1 946, it sent the following letter to its members : 

Dear Mr. Manufacturer: 

Our President — DeWitt Emery — speaking in Washington recently, 
accused the War Department of teaching communism. 

The basis for Mr. Emery's statement is the War Dept. Manual EM 
763 — Economics: Principles and Problems. Shortly after Mr. Emery 
brought this to the attention of the country', the War Dept. withdrew the 
manual temporarily, pending further study of the matter. However, we 
will insist upon a thorough investigation immediately after the 8oth Con- 
gress convenes in January. We shall want to know why our War Dept. 
adopted these textbooks, and, even though Manual EM 763 has been 
withdrawn, we want to know how many other manuals are still in use 
which are just as bad or worse. 

The War Dept. may not be altogether to blame in this case, since we 
now learn that the book was selected for the War Dept. to be used in the 
Armed Forces Institute, by a committee of 100 civilian educators. We have 
a list of 106 colleges and universities which have adopted the textbook on 
economics. We are writing each of these schools to determine whether or 
not the book is actually being used. . . . 

We need your support and active participation in this campaign, and 
urge you to join with us in the other important work we are doing. The 
cost is insignificant — $18 — and it will be the best investment you ever 

Sincerely yours, 
D. H. HoLLOWAY, Treasurer^'^ 

^®In order to perpetuate his idea of democracy Charles Walgreen later established 
a five-hundred-thousand-dollar foundation at the University of Chicago for the 
study and indoctrination of "American Institutions." 

^'Reprinted in In Fact, Vol. XIV, No. ii, December i6, 1946. 

268 Caste, Class, and Race 

The protest for suppression of the book was actually made by Sen- 
ator C. Wayland Brooks of Illinois. After having killed the text in some 
of its vital uses, its antagonists went for the scalps of the professors 
themselves. Among them, the Chicago Tribune, an outstanding private 
committee for the investigation of un-American activities, practically 
coerced Professor Blodgett to make a public denial of any sympathy 
with communism. In answer to the fearful charge, Blodgett, in evident 
desperation, wrote the newspaper: 

In trying to make me out a communist, you are decidedly barking up 
the wrong tree. I am of good Vermont Republican stock, and have been 
a Republican myself since I reached the appropriate age. ... I am known 
to the faculty and students of the University of Illinois as a conservative, 
and these good people will register only amusement or indignation in the 
face of your accusations. . . . 

Then Mr. Blodgett went on to extricate himself : 

Your article suggests that Gemmill and I have "an economic philosophy 
embracing a cradle to the grave security financed largely by oppressive 
taxation of large estates and personal incomes." Actually, we favor some 
broadening of the social security program as it existed before the war, 
but I am greatly opposed to proposals for a system of cradle to the grave 
social security. . . . 

The author proceeded to explain to the anti-democratic editor of the 
Tribune that the text will be revised and the following good word in 
the interest of capitalism will be inserted: 

In suggesting means for bringing about an increase in economic equal- 
ity, we have limited ourselves to recommendations which we are convinced 
could be worked out within the framework of a capitalistic economy. In- 
deed, we hold that the proposals we have outlined, so far from weakening 
the present economic order, would do much to strengthen it. . . . 

The Tribune in full possession of its authority, answered him in 
disciplinary fashion : 

Mr. Blodgett . . . protests that the Tribune is "trying to make me out 
a communist." In none of the three stories which the Tribune published 
concerning the textbook was there more than incidental mention of 
Blodgett as coauthor. The communist inclinations of Gemmill were set 
forth as described by the house committee. Blodgett chose his company 
and if he finds himself sleeping in the same bed with a fellow traveler, that 
is his responsibility.^^ 

^For Professor Blodgett's letter and the Tribune's editorial in answer to it, see 
Chicago Tribune, October 13, 1946. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 269 

To be sure, the question here is not one of the right of Colonel Rob- 
ert R. McCormick to argue the validity of any statement made in 
university textbooks, but it is rather his power and that of his class to 
pervert and frighten into silence the social scientists of the nation which 
is in question. Even the most feeble excursions of these scholars into 
the field of vital social problems is readily stifled and, instead of being 
able to think freely over the whole area of social possibilities, they are 
turned back upon themselves to be hmited "to recommendations 
which . . . could be worked out within the framework of a capital- 
istic economy."" 

The Committee on Un-American Activities 

The ideological battle against Roosevelt reached some sort of climax 
in 1938 with the appointment of the Dies Committee by the House of 
Representatives to investigate un-American activities. Probably the 
Dies Committee has been more responsible for the void in democratic 
enthusiasm following the death of the President than any other anti- 
democratic force in the country. As William Gellermann observes: 
"Dies has been effective in reducing the limits of American tolerance 
toward individuals and organizations in America whose opinions and 
social ideals are out of harmony with the intellectual folkways and eco- 
nomic interests of the dominant group in American society, which Dies 
labeled 'American.' "" It is significant, then, to observe the techniques 
of this instrument of political-class antagonism. 

The major problem of the Dies Committee was that of undermining 
the New Deal by identifying it with the negative stereotype of com- 
munism and then giving "merciless publicity" to this identification. As 
Congressman Martin Dies himself declared: "Stalin baited his hook 
with a 'progressive' worm, and New-Deal suckers swallowed bait, hook, 
line, and sinker."^^ Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harold L. Ickes, Henry 
A. Wallace, Robert H. Jackson, Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, and 
almost every other conceivable individual and group with progressive 
democratic ideas were sought out and stigmatized before the pubUc. 

^For a discussion of this, see James Harvey Robinson, The Mind in the Making, 
especially pp. 173, 121, 202. 

^Martin Dies, p. 3. 

The term "un-American" is a political-class concept; the ruling class and its 
interests are American. When Roosevelt wanted to infer that the bourgeoisie had 
been deposed, he said: ". . . the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to 
beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them." Acceptance of 
the renomination for the presidency, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, June 27, 1936. 

^The Trojan Horse in America, p. 285. 

270 Caste, Class, and Race 

The Dies Committee could do this because the social force behind it 
was and still is the ruling class of the nation. 

In one of its important aspects [says Professor Gellermann] the Dies 
committee was virtually a Republican anti-New Deal campaign com- 
mittee, supported in its activities by the taxpayers of the United States. 
The fact that there were so-called Democrats on the committee only added 
to its effectiveness. While ostensibly investigating un-American activities 
the Dies group was actually seeking to discredit a popularly elected admin- 

The Dies Committee, indeed, was simply "the spearhead of Amer- 
ican reaction." Roosevelt was constantly irritated by its tactics. He was 
particularly concerned about the way Dies disposed of Governor Frank 
Murphy in the investigation of the Detroit sit-down strike in the fall 
of 1938.'*^ 

However, the focus of the committee's attack was the Communist 
party of the United States, the most outspoken group in the struggle 
against capitalism. Its propagandistic connections with Soviet Russia 
gave Dies an excellent opportunity to identify communism itself as un- 
American. Thus he concluded : "Communism is nothing more nor less 
than organized treason."^'^ Dies never made a distinction between the 

^Op. cit., pp. 68-69. And he points out further: "[The Dies committee] is a 
common front of conservatives of both old parties against the New Deal and all 
those who believe in industrial democracy." Ibid., p. 104. 

^*"I was very much disturbed," the President remarked. "I was disturbed not be- 
cause of the absurdly false charges made by a coterie of disgruntled Republican 
officeholders against a profoundly religious, able and law-abiding Governor; but 
because a Congressional Committee charged with the responsibility of investigating 
un-American activities should have permitted itself to be used in a flagrantly unfair 
and un-American attempt to influence an election. 

"At this hearing the Dies Committee made no effort to get at the truth, either 
by calling for facts to support mere personal opinion or by allowing facts and per- 
sonal opinion on the other side. On the threshold of a vitally important gubernatorial 
election, they permitted a disgruntled Republican judge, a discharged Republican 
City Manager and a couple of officious police officers to make lurid charges against 
Governor Frank Murphy, without attempting to elicit from them facts as to their 
undeniable bias and their charges, and without attempting to obtain from the Gov- 
ernor or, for that matter, from any responsible motor manufacturer, his version of 
the events." A statement on the Dies Committee investigation of un-American 
activities during the sit-down strikes in Michigan, October 25, 1938. 

All the hearings of the Dies Committee were characterized by this procedure. See 
William Gellermann, op. cit., p. 14, for a corroboration of this. The American 
Civil Liberties Union found that ". . . the Committee has persisted in spreading 
baseless or prejudiced testimony of a sensational and irresponsible character all 
over the record and the press without giving those charged a fair chance to reply. 
It has seen un-Americanism almost wholly as Communism, with occasional ex- 
cursions into anti-democratic forces of reaction, evidently to offset criticism of bias. 
It has charged Communist connections to a host of agencies and individuals whose 
only loyalty was to a liberal democracy." Editorial, "On Un-Americanism," Civil 
Liberties Quarterly, March 1947, No. 64. 

^■^Op. cit., p. 236. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 271 

propagandistic and underground activities of the struggle for com- 
munism and communism itself. 

From the point of view of the ruling class, however, the struggle for 
communism or democracy must necessarily be treasonous. Consciously 
or unconsciously its end must be the overthrow of the legitimate heirs of 
capitalist culture. "Our allegiance to American institutions," Roose- 
velt declared, "requires the overthrow of this power."^® 

In the modern class struggle the term "un-American" refers to all 
those persons or groups who oppose the ideology and practices of the 
ruling class, the class in whose peculiar interests the economic order 
functions. The unmistakable un-Americans are those who advocate 
and struggle for a consummate democracy in the United States. How- 
ever, the process of social change in capitalist society tends to be irre- 
versible. A successful reactionary movement by the "true Americans" 
does not return the system to its previous condition but rather to some 
heightened state of social dysphoria characteristic of fascism. As Pro- 
fessor Gellermann points out: "Anything which tends to destroy 
democracy in the United States is a step in the direction of fascism. "^^ 

Democracy, then, as Roosevelt observed, is and has been always on 
the march ; it is never satisfied until achieved. It must, therefore, be a 
sort of "fifth column" undermining capitalism — a fifth column which 
the capitalist ruling class could never hope to liquidate and with which 
it must evidently continue to fight a losing battle. Democracy is by its 
very nature subversive of the status quo; thus it seems apparent that 
any ardent advocate of democracy must inevitably be subversive, 
radical, and "un-American." 

Probably a distinction should be made between the terms "fifth 
column" and "pro-foreign nation." When two nations are at war, that 
person who, through words or actions, evinces some deep sympathy for 
the foreign nation is a "pro-foreign national." The fifth column, how- 
ever, may be thought of as a group of political-class affiliates within a 
nation that accepts or is willing to accept the aid of members of the 
same class in another nation in order to overthrow or limit the power 
of the domestic ruling class. For instance, during World War I, which 
was essentially an imperialist war, the Britisher w^ho took the side of the 
Germans was a pro-German. However, in World War II, where the 
class struggle sometimes overshadowed the imperialist interests, the 
fifth columns were either the fascists or the communists of the different 
nations, depending on the possibility of an alliance with an invading 
power against the opposite domestic political class. 

^See Samuel I. Rosenman, ed., op. cit., Vol. 5, p. 234. 
^Op. cit., p. 7. 

272 Caste, Class, and Race 

The Dies hearings on un-American activities run into many thou- 
sands of printed pages, yet there is no startling revelation in them. Its 
purpose was — and still is — to put on infamous public display that 
which had already been known. One sample may serve to illustrate the 
involvement of domestic and foreign political-class antagonisms. Mil- 
ton Wolff was born in Brooklyn in 1 9 1 5. In 1 940 he was brought before 
the Dies Committee to testify to his un-American activities. The ques- 
tioning, in part, follows: 

Mr. Matthews: Are you a member of the Communist party? 

Mr. Wolff: I am not. 

Mr. Matthews: Have you ever been a member of the Young Com- 
munist League? 

Mr. Wolff : I have not. 

Mr. Matthews: When you went to Spain did you travel on a passport 
issued in your own name? 

Mr. Wolff: I did. 

Mr. Matthews : American passport? 

Mr. Wolff: Yes, sir. 

Mr. Matthews : Was there a notation stamped on it that it was not good 
for travel in Spain? 

Mr. Wolff: There was. 

Mr. Matthews: When you applied for that passport what reason did 
you give for traveling abroad? 

Mr. Wolff: I don't remember the reason. 

Mr. Matthews: But you did not state that you were going to Spain? 

Mr. Wolff: I did not. 

Mr. Matthews: When you applied for the passport was it your inten- 
tion to go to Spain? 

Mr. Wolff: It was. . . . 

Mr. Matthews: When you arrived in France did you go directly to 

Mr. Wolff: I did. 

Mr. Matthews : What did you do with your passport when you arrived 
in Spain? 

Mr. Wolff: I turned it over to some people there for safekeeping, be- 
cause I did not want to have it on me while I was in action, because I was 
aware of the fact that there was a very real possibility of losing it. Later 
events proved the correctness of my reasoning because I lost all of my 
other personal belongings that I came to Spain with. 

Mr. Matthews: What was your position in the Spanish Loyalist Army? 

Mr. Wolff: When I first got there, it was that of a soldier. When I left, 
I was commander of the Lincoln Battalion. 

Mr. Matthews: When were you appointed to the position of com- 
mander of the Lincoln Battalion? 

Mr. Wolff : After a year and a half of fighting on the front line. I don't 
know the exact date. 

Mr. Matthews: Who appointed you to that position? 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 273 

Mr. Wolff": I was recommended by Colonel Valledor, who was the com- 
mander of the Fifteenth Brigade. I was recommended by him to the Min- 
ister of Defense, and the Minister of Defense appointed me commander 
of the battalion. 

Mr. Matthews: How long did you hold the position of commander of 
the Lincoln Battalion? 

Mr. Wolff": For a half year. 

Mr. Matthews : And what types of work had you done before you went 
to Spain? 

Mr. Wolff: I was an art student. I was in a CCC camp and I worked in 
— as a shipping clerk at one time. 

Mr. Matthews : And you had been in Spain approximately a year and 
a half when you say you were made commander of the Lincoln Battalion? 

(No answer.) 

Mr. Matthews: Now how did you happen to join the Loyalist Army? 

Mr. Wolff : When the war broke out in Spain, I recognized it, or it was 
my opinion at least, that it was a war of democracy against fascism. I 
understood that the regularly elected republican government of Spain was 
under attack by a rebellious army, much the same as the Southern Army 
attacked the regularly elected Government of the North during the Civil 

I ^Iso realized that Italy and Germany had a very strong hand on the 
fascist side as against that of republican Spain. 

At that time in America we were already beginning to feel and see the 
actions of our democratic breed of fascism — I am Jewish, and knowing that 
as a Jew we are the first to suffer when fascism does come, I went to Spain 
to fight against it. There was a chance to fight on the front 

Chairman Dies: Isn't it true that you also suffer under communism? 

Mr. Wolff: I have no idea of that at all. As far as my knowledge goes, 
I know of no instances where Jews have suffered under communism. 

The Chairman : Didn't you know that the Government of Soviet Russia 
was under a communist dictatorship just as bad as a fascist dictatorship? 

Mr. Wolff: I knew the Government of the Soviet Union, as far as I 
know, was elected by the people. I knew that there was a strong Com- 
munist party in the Soviet Union. I was not aware of the existence of any 
dictatorship in the Soviet Union. 

The Chairman: Didn't you regard Stalin as a dictator just like Musso- 
lini and Hitler? 

Mr. Wolff: No, I did not. 

The Chairman: You do now? 

Mr. Wolff: I do not. 

The Chairman : You don't think he is a dictator? 

Mr. Wolff: I do not. 

The Chairman : Do you think that is a democracy? 

Mr. Wolff: I don't know what type of government it is, but I do know 
it is my opinion that it is not a, dictatorship. 

The Chairman: Do you think it is a democracy? 

Mr. Wolff: No, I don't think it is a democracy — I don't think it is a 
democracy, for instance, similar to — I imagine that you are referring to 

2 74 Caste, Class, and Race 

and your standard is based on American democracy. I don't think it is 
that type of democracy. 

The Chairman: Is it any type of democracy? 

Mr. WolfT: I don't know. 

Mr. Voorhis: What do you think of the support of Germany by Russia? 

Mr. WolfT: What is that? 

Mr. Voorhis: What do you think of the support of Germany by Russia? 

Mr. Wolff: At this time I would like to ask the committee a question. 
I received a subpoena in court last week asking me to appear before the 
House Committee Investigating Un-American Activities, headed by 
Martin Dies of Texas. I would like to know what my opinion of Soviet sup- 
port of Germany or alleged support of Germany has to do with the sub- 
poena that was served on me. 

The Chairman: Well, you gave your opinion with reference to the 
democracy in Spain. I was trying to get your idea of what you meant by 

Mr. WolfT: I was more familiar with democracy in Spain than I was 
either in the Soviet Union, since I had never been there. 

The Chairman : You had never been in Spain either. 

Mr. WolfT : When I got to Spain I was aware of it. 

The Chairman: But at the time you joined 

Mr. WolfT : There was no need for me to go to the Soviet Union to de- 
fend anything there. There was no struggle. All I knew there was in Spain 
a regularly elected government. 

The Chairman: Let us proceed. 

Mr. Matthews: In the event of a war between the United States and 
the Soviet Union, which side would you support? 

Mr. WolfT: Is there such a war today? 

The Chairman : You certainly would know. You went over and fought 
in Spain. 

Mr. WolfT: Is there such a war today? 

The Chairman : If there were such a war, 

Mr. WolfT : Is there a war today between the United States and Soviet 

The Chairman : If war should break out between the United States and 
the Soviet Union, would you support this Government? 

Mr. WolfT : If war should break out between the United States and the 
Soviet Government, I would be glad to give my answer.^" 

This last was the trump question of the committee; it ordinarily 
caused witnesses considerable embarrassment. Advocates of democracy 
are naturally eager to fight against fascism, especially against fascist 
nations. They are not ordinarily enthusiastic about fighting imperialist 
wars, but they will be put to the severest tests if they were compelled to 
fight a political-class war on the side of reaction against democracy. 
The master question of the committee was tantamount to this: "Sup- 

^Hearings before Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Repre- 
sentatives, 76th, 3rd, pp. 7785-88. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 275 

pose the ruling class in the United States were to begin a counterrevolu- 
tion against the democratic gains of the American people, would you 
support the ruling class?" Dies knew all this, but he was depending 
upon public misinformaiion and inability to distinguish between the 
old nationalistic wars and the modem class struggle in order to brand 
contenders for democracy with the stigma of un-Americanism. 

World War I began and practically ended as a pure imperialist war; 
World War II was partly imperialist and partly political-class, with 
the imperialist interests distorting the alignment of the political classes ; 
the agitation for World War III is purely political-class and it is to the 
advantage of the capitalists and fascists to begin the violent phase of 
this war as early as possible, because the longer it is delayed, the stronger 
will become the democratic forces of the world. However, this is not to 
say that later some advanced democratic nation, say the USSR, will 
attack the capitalist ruling classes, say, in the United States. Rapid 
gains of democracy have been and will continue for some time to be 
achieved through internal revolution — not directly through interna- 
tional war. In the class struggle international war is primarily an instru- 
ment of apparent value to the anti-democratic powers of the world. 

It is obvious from these and other questions that the committee was 
interested in bringing out its point that the Spanish Loyalist govern- 
ment was not worth fighting for, since it was as bad as that of the 
fascists who helped to destroy it. To the committee, Soviet Russia was 
the standard of infamy, so that if it could be shown that a witness had 
some sympathy for the socialist system of Russia, the conclusion was 
clear that the latter inculpated himself as un-American. Moreover, one 
of the principal interests of the committee was to identify Hitler and 
Stalin, out of the very mouths of "communists," as identical dictators. 
This done, it could reason that since Stalin is like Hitler, and since 
Roosevelt "swallowed StaHn's bait," then Roosevelt and the New Deal 
were like Hitler and fascism. The propaganda would thus reach the 
negative sanctions of practically everyone in the United States. 

Involvement of the Church 

As we should expect, religion holds a central place in every stage of 
the class struggle. In the first report of the committee, communism is 
defined in part as "a world-wide political organization advocating the 
abolition of all forms of religion."^^ Throughout the investigation "re- 

House Report of the Special Committee on Un-American Activities, 76th Con- 
gress, Report No. 2, January 3, 1939, p. 12. And Martin Dies in his Trojan Horse 
says: "Communists aim not only to destroy the Church and to train a whole genera- 

276 Caste, Class, and Race 

ligion" was relied upon, in a characteristic way, to stigmatize persons 
suspected of communist sympathies as un-American. It should be 
noted, however, that Dies and the political class for which he was 
speaking need not have any particular religious interest — neither a per- 
sonal interest such as that of the ordinary believer, nor a vested eco- 
nomic interest such as that which the priests ordinarily have. His 
interest may be only in the use of the people's religiosity as an anti- 
democratic, propagandistic weapon. It is in the latter sense that re- 
ligion may be thought of as a "social opiate." In such a case the deep 
religious conviction of the people is exploited for the purpose of con- 
fusing and befogging their thinking on the vital socioeconomic interests 
in question. 

It should be pointed out what attitude the Roman Catholic Church, 
through its great leaders, assumes in the vanguard of organized, re- 
ligious reaction to the movement for democracy in the United States. 
Soon after His Eminence Francis Cardinal Spellman returned to the 
United States from the Vatican he wrote an article which summarized 
the position of his Church with respect to communism.^- His argument 
follows the typical pattern: (a) that the boys who died in World War 
II gave their lives not to the cause of destroying fascism all over the 
world but to protect the United States against communism; (b) that 
communism will destroy "freedom" in the United States; (c) that his 
objective "is to help save America from the godless governings of 
totalitarianism, for [he] believes that every 'ism' based on bloodshed, 
barbarism, suppression, and slavery is un-American"; (d) that "there 
is no middle course between Democracy and Communism . . . [for] 
wherever Communism appears, slavery appears"; and (e) "that the 
first loyalty of every American is vigilantly to weed out and counteract 
Communism." There could be no question about the "vigilance" of 
organized Catholicism in the United States; it has taken on the full 
panoply of propagandistic war, and, in this, there seems to be no limit 
to the level of probity to which it may descend. For instance, in a three- 
column anti-communist advertisement by the Knights of Columbus in 
a number of metropolitan dailies the public is told : 

Whether you call them Communists or Nazis is of little consequence; 
the objectives, the methods and the ideologies of both are almost identical. 
. . . There is no real difference between the Red Fascists with head- 

tion in atheism; they aim also to put aside all that the human race has developed in 
the way of high ethical or moral standards since man emerged from the jungle. 
Communism is the restoration of the jungle code." P. 240. Again: "Religion cannot 
survive the triumph of Communism." P. 247. 

^^"Communism is Un-American," The American Magazine, July 1946, pp. aSff. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 277 

quarters in Moscow and the Brown Fascists who came like pestilence out 
of Berlin.^3 

Organized Labor 

The fact of continuing significance in recent developments in the 
class struggle, however, is the new status of labor in the industrial sys- 
tem of the nation. The focus of progressive action is the Congress of 
Industrial Organizations; and it was Franklin D. Roosevelt who opened 
the way to this progress. Almost like a labor leader, he demanded of 
the Congress in 1933 "that Congress provide the machinery necessary 
for a great co-operative movement throughout all industry in order to 
obtain wide re-employment, to shorten the working week, to pay a 
decent wage for the shorter week."^* And, in a review of accomplish- 
ments under the NRA, he said: 

In our progress under the Act the age-long curse of child labor has been 
lifted, the sweatshop outlawed, and millions of wage earners released from 
starvation wages and excessive hours of labor. Under it a great advance has 
been made in the opportunities and assurances of collective bargaining be- 
tween employers and employees. Under it the patterns of a new order of 
industrial relations are definitely taking shape. '^'^ 

It is this "new order of industrial relations" later guaranteed by the 
National Labor Relations Act with which we are here concerned. This 
act finally made collective bargaining in the United States respectable. 
In the midst of the depression it reversed the ordinary cycle of labor- 
union membership from an expected "low" to an all-time "high." As 
we have pointed out elsewhere, the CIO has taken the initiative in 
this movement ; consequently it has been made the center of anti-labor 
antagonism. ^'^ 

®The New York Times, August 18, 1946. (Italics added.) 

®*Recommendation to the Congress to enact the National Industrial Recovery Act 
to put people to work, May 17, 1933. 

^Recommendation to the Congress that NRA be extended, February 20, 1935. 

"Ordinarily, when attacks are made against the CIO, the AFL, which has only 
a very limited objective in the organization of workers, is praised for its good be- 
havior. The way in which this is done may be indicated by the following account 
from Martin Dies, op. cit. (pp. 145-46) : "From the evidence presented before the 
Special Committee on Un-American Activities, it is very clear that Communists 
played an important role in bringing about the withdrawal of the CIO unions from 
the AFL and the formation of the CIO. 

"When Lewis and his followers established the CIO, they were immediately con- 
fronted with a problem growing out of the scarcity of trained experienced organ- 
izers. Their immediate task was to organize the workers in the heavy industries . . . 
in line with the wishes of the Administration. 

"There is no question but that the President regarded it as a necessary part of his 
program to have the workers organized for collective bargaining. The President felt 

278 Caste, Class, and Race 

Briefly, the facts of significance in this movement seem to be these : 
Workers today have a legal right to organize for purposes of collective 
bargaining, and they cannot be legally discriminated against by em- 
ployers for such union activities;*'^ the labor movement is now directed 
toward the organization of all organizable workers ; in bargaining labor 
has begun to insist upon an examination of the profit -making activities 
of the employer; the price structure of the system has become an im- 
mediate concern of the workers; and "political action" has become an. 
increasingly effective device in support of the labor movement. 

The USSR and the Class Struggle 

Even this very limited view of the class struggle will obviously be in- 
complete without a glance into its international involvements. Today 
the international, political-class issue has become clear-cut and demon- 
strable: it has resolved itself virtually to a struggle between the ruling 
class in the United States and the upthrust of democracy all over the 
world. In areas of major consequence the ammunition and various 
details of the armed forces of the United States are sent directly against 
the people, but in minor areas such as the East Indies, the West Indies, 
and South America the ruling classes — especially that of Great Britain 
— are subsidized to carry on the business of laying waste the democratic 
efforts of the people. The issue has been constantly befogged by its 
definition as a drive against "Russian expansion" by "freedom-loving 
peoples." Thus a curtain of obscuration has been drawn across the class 
struggle, while it has been made to appear as the old issue of capitalist 
imperialism and land grabbing. In a very real sense, however, the ruling 
class in the United States is already fighting its own proletarian revolu- 
tion abroad, and it is only by an understanding of this that we could 
explain the apparently reckless expenditure of funds in a negative inter- 
national program. The cost can hardly be counted since it involves the 

that no recovery could be brought about until this was accomplished. There was re- 
liable information that the President sent for William Green and asked him to 
organize the heavy industries on a mass scale, but that Mr. Green informed the 
President it was impossible to do this as quickly as the President wanted it done. 
After Green had rejected his proposal, the President sent for John L. Lewis and 
made the same request of him. 

"Lewis was quick to seize upon this opportunity, and with the approval of the 
Administration and the valuable aid given him by the National Labor Relations 
Board, he set about to organize the workers in the mass-production industries. There 
was one thing lacking — trained organizers and leaders. But the Communist party 
was ready to meet this need." 

^'National Labor Relations Board vs. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, 301 
U.S. I. However, the Taft-Hartley Labor Act (June 23, 1947) was especially 
designed to limit the advance of unionism. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 279 

very existence of that class which has always controlled the resources of 
the people. 

Since the death of President Roosevelt anti-democratic reaction has 
become increasingly apparent. In international relations the war cry of 
this reaction has been: "Stop Russia now." Time, as never before, 
seems to have definitely taken the side of world-wide democracy, hence 
the reason for almost hysterical suggestions by the capitalist classes to 
stop it now at its core of incitement with World War III. From the 
point of view of the interests of the capitalist, ruling class it is very much 
more necessary to have war with Russia today than it was during the 
twenties and thirties. This is the last effective way of demonstrating to 
the world that democracy is a social system inferior to that of capital- 
ism. Although the Soviet Union has carried the major part of the 
burden of the Allies in the European war, the capitalist nations have 
been deeply frustrated by its consequences. 

If reactionaries are chosen to determine the international policies of 
the United States, diplomatic conflict with Russia is assured. The prob- 
lem of the capitalist reactionaries is to carry the world back to its pre- 
World War II condition of capitalist power and to close all doors 
opened to democratic gains during the war. When Senator Tom Con- 
nally and former Secretary of State James Byrnes, both from the Deep 
South and with no tradition of democratic zeal, came together with 
Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a leader of reactionary Republicanism, 
as a team to devise the policies for the United States in the reconstruc- 
tion of the world, diplomatic deadlocks with the Soviet Union could 
have been safely predicted. Such men, as Franklin Roosevelt was wont 
to say, have the interests of the ruling few at heart and not that of the 
great masses of people of the world. However, these limited interests 
are couched in an intense nationalism which defines the Soviet Union 
as opposed to all the people of the United States. 

It seems fairly certain that diplomatic leadership with democratic 
proclivities would have been much more disposed to compromise with 
Russia on world problems. This prediction may be supported in- 
directly by the fact of the relative ease with which Roosevelt and his 
missionaries reached decisions with Russia and the intense criticism of 
him by the present reactionaries for his having worked thus smoothly 
with that nation. 

Undoubtedly the post- World War II peace negotiations between 
Great Britain and the United States on the one hand and Russia on the 
other turn pivotally upon the question whether reactionary or demo- 
cratic interests will assume the dominant power in the different coun- 

28o Caste, Class, and Race 

tries of Europe and Asia, As we have seen, the content of the funda- 
mental struggle is ordinarily expressed in such terms as "spheres of 
influence," "Russian expansion," "veto power," "atomic power," and 
so on. In one of his important radio addresses expressing his inability 
to "understand Russia" (October i8, 1946), Byrnes told the people of 
the United States: 

America stands for social and economic democracy at home and abroad. 
... It would be strange indeed if in this imperfect world our social and 
economic democracy were perfect, but it might help our Soviet friends to 
understand us better if they realized that today our social and economic 
democracy is farther away from the devil-take-the-hindmost philosophy 
of bygone days than Soviet Russia is from Czarist Russia. 

Since the national fate of the American people is being determined 
largely by this kind of thinking, nothing should be of greater conse- 
quence in this matter than to ask the question: Is that so? Moreover, 
since race relations are vitally enmeshed in the progress of world 
democracy, Mr. Byrnes's admonition to the Soviet Union on the same 
occasion should certainly be brought into question, "We in America 
know," said he, "that people of different races and stocks can live to- 
gether in peace in the United States. They should be able to live to- 
gether in peace in Europe." Seeing that Byrnes is a political leader from 
South Carolina and knowing of Russia's racial policies, it is somewhat 
difficult to conceive of a stable peace built upon this sort of diplomacy.®* 
It should be recognized, moreover, that the United States is the only 
major nation of the world without an effective political party whose 
primary objective is the achievement of democracy, and this may sug- 
gest the reason why both in its domestic politics and international 
diplomacy its ruling class tends to be democratically irresponsible. 

Then again it should be remembered that in political-class conflict it 
is class interest and not "abstract morality" which determines be- 
havior. Therefore, if in any international council an overwhelming 
number of the nations are represented by the capitalist interests within 
those nations, the democratic representatives will be automatically 
outvoted on every vital international question, while almost the only 
function of the presence of these democratic advocates of proletarian 
rights will be to lend moral sanction to the imperiaUst, exploitative 

®^It should be remarked that fear and suspicion of the USSR are primarily fear 
and suspicion of the common people at home ; and since we do not expect the people 
at home to give up their struggle for democracy, we could never hope to find a solu- 
tion for the antagonism between Soviet Russia and capitalist United States. The 
principal danger of the USSR to the ruling class in the United States is the former's 
alarming prospects for economic and social success. 

A Close-up of the Class Struggle 281 

intent of the capitalist powers. It is this overbalance of capitalist na- 
tions which the United States and Great Britain have at their disposal 
and which they have converted into a moral question of solicitude for 
the opinions of "smaller nations" in international deliberations. The 
foreign policy of the United States, like that of all capitalist nations, is 
largely predetermined by the economic interests of businessmen; and 
the difficulty of achieving consistency in this policy is that of reconciling 
a profit-making purpose with the overwhelming desire among most 
peoples to reconstruct their social order on the basis of production for 
group welfare. The problem of foreign diplomacy, therefore, is that of 
describing the interests of businessmen as identical with those of the 
masses of disconsolate peoples all over the world. 

Probably there is no single material fact so determinative of the 
trend of diplomatic relationship between the United States and Russia 
as the use of atomic energy as a weapon. In the United States the ruling 
class and its military organization have developed about this phe- 
nomenon a system of terror propaganda calculated to instill so much 
fear in the people that they will lose sight of the fact that they have all 
the power that is necessary easily to put the bomb out of existence. So 
far as world public opinion is concerned — and that is stronger than any 
weapon that any nation can produce — the bomb is a weapon of 

It is worse than the poisonous gases which have been outlawed by 
international agreements and which not even the unprincipled Nazis 
attempted to use in the last war. Even if the bomb had no explosive 
power at all but only its processual, toxic aftereffects, it already stands 
outlawed as a weapon in the public opinion of the civilized world. As 
the Japanese radio broadcast said soon after August 6, 1945, when the 
atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima: "International law lays 
down the principle that belligerent nations are not entitled to unlimited 
choice in the means by which to destroy their opponents. "^^ 

As a sort of moral justification, it may be argued that Japan would 
have used it upon the United States if she had discovered it first. To- 
day, however, the continued perfection of the weapon with the ad- 
mitted purpose of a possible need to use it in war e\'inces some sort of 
hysteria on the diplomatic level and introduces an exceedingly distract- 
ing element in the settlement of international affairs. Nor is the argu- 
ment that the use of the bomb shortened the war and, on the whole, 
was less costly in human lives a sound one. The same reasoning might 

"^The New York Times, August 9, 1945. 

282 Caste, Class, and Race 

have been employed in justification of the use of any of the poisonous 
or asphyxiating hquids and gases just as soon as it was made clear that 
Japan could not retaliate against the United States in kind. 

The reactionaries who call for war against Russia now — "the atom- 
bomb diplomats" — usually conceive of their class as bearers of the 
standard of world morality. Thus, according to William C. Bullitt, 
former United States Ambassador to Russia and France: 

In the task of lifting mankind to the moral level made vital by the 
atomic bomb, religion and statesmanship can labor shoulder to shoulder. 
We, as individuals and as a nation, can ask God to make us the instru- 
ments of His justice and peace, and try to be worthy instruments.'''*' 

To outlaw the atomic bomb is not to give up any part of the monop- 
oly which the United States now has on that knowledge, developed in 
different parts of the world, about the splitting of the atom, but it is to 
take out of the hands of the ruling, capitalist class the basis for con- 
siderable intrigue and propaganda about Russia's desire to obtain "the 
secret" so that she might manufacture bombs for possible immediate 
use against the United States. A tremendous amount of reactionary 
politics may succeed under the ensuing wave of nationalism, for to fear 
the Soviet Union is to hate it. One way, though dangerous, of achiev- 
ing domestic unity is to develop a common fear for a foreign power. 

Moreover, the creation of an artificial panic about Russia's intent to 
attack the United States with atomic bombs — although of all the 
nations in the world only the United States is actually manufacturing 
atomic bombs — may also be intended to put at rest militant democracy 
at home. It gives the ruling class an opportunity to make public display 
of the overwhelming destructive power available in support of the 
status quo. 

''"The Great Globe Itself, pp. 214-15. For a similar thesis, though rather within 
the lunatic fringe of such thinking, see James Burnham, The Struggle for the 

14' The Literature on Class 

alluded to the possibility of confusion in discussions of this subject. 
At this point a few references to some leading authorities in the field 
may help us to appreciate the different approaches to the phenomena 
of class. It must be admitted, however, that the brevity of some of these 
excerpts may not do justice to the work of these authors. Some of them 
will probably only indicate sources of material for further reading. We 
shall hope that the selection is representative. Of the many articles on 
class in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, none makes a distinc- 
tion between political and social classes. Estates, as social-status phe- 
nomena, are not considered at all. Some contributors discuss the 
phenomena of social classes and others those of political classes, some- 
times even mixing the characteristics of both, yet always under the 
caption class. Although Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are the great 
pioneers in descriptions of the behavior of political classes, they seem 
never to have presented a clear picture of the distinction between status 
groups, occupational groups, and political classes. Let us look again at 
the views of these authors.^ 

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels 

At the beginning of our chapter on "The Political Class" we cited 
the celebrated passage from the Communist Manifesto on "class 
struggle." So far as we know, Marx and Engels never revised their con- 
ception of the class groups mentioned there; and this has apparently 
been responsible not only for considerable misunderstanding of their 
theory of class struggle but also for a number of rejections of the entire 

Tor a recent discussion of various definitions of class, see Pitirim A. Sorokin, 
Society, Culture, and Personality, pp. 2633'. 

284 Caste, Class, and Race 

Marxian approach. The classes that have carried on an uninterrupted 
fight, according to these writers, are: "freeman and slave, patrician 
and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, oppressor 
and oppressed, bourgeoisie and proletariat." 

Of this selection, however, the only true political classes are bour- 
geoisie and proletariat; and practically all of the writings of Marx and 
Engels on the class struggle have been concerned with the behavior of 
these two political classes. In feudal and pre-feudal days freeman and 
slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf were all social-estate groups. 
On the other hand, guild-master and journeyman are occupational 
groups. The sporadic conflicts between the latter groups were personal ; 
they never had the potentialities of revolution. Journeymen never 
wanted to overthrow "society" in order to set up a new system. The 
terms "oppressor" and "oppressed" are too generalized to have mean- 
ing for definitions of political classes. In fact, it might not be entirely 
incorrect to say that the greater the seeming oppression of one group by 
another, the less the likelihood of political-class action on the part of the 
oppressed group. 

Othmar Spann 

In the H andworterbuch der Staatswissenschajten, Othmar Spann, 
in his article "Klasse und Stand," attempts a distinction between these 
two concepts. Unfortunately, however, Spann seems to be more inter- 
ested in what should be than in what is. He criticizes the "Marxistic, 
individualistic idea" of class formation because it conceives of society 
as being pathological ; whereas society should be thought of as a healthy 
organism with class supplementing class. "The basic social fact, the 
basic law of all estates [Stdndewesens]," he writes, "is the stratification 
of society into higher and lower orders according to rank. Even if the 
phenomena of Stand are considered in the individualistic sense as 
'class' this law holds true," Spann denies the class-struggle writers 
further in holding that "the Stand (or more exactly, that which accord- 
ing to the individualistic conception of society is called class and ac- 
cording to the universalistic conception Stand ) does not arise from the 
way of production and division of labor, but rather it is the spirit and 
direction of life which lead to a certain kind of economy and kind of 
labor." Among the Marxian writers, Spann includes Max Weber, call- 
ing him "a friend of the socialists," and, quoting from Wirtschajt und 
Gesellschajt, he concludes that "Weber's conception is therefore typical 
of the entire science of today." 

At one point in this article one would think that the author had 

The Literature on Class 285 

reached a clear differentiation of these concepts. He says, for instance : 
"The group in action, if seen isolatedly, is called class — class in an 
individualistic, Marxist sense; but the group in action, if seen organi- 
cally, that is to say, as an integral part of the totality of the activities of a 
society and of the totality of culture [das Gesamtgeistige] from which 
activities are derived, is called estate (Stand)." However, from this 
Spann does not follow and develop a consistent analysis. Instead, he 
lapses into such confusions as the following: "He who wants to recog- 
nize the constructive element, in fact, the real element in historical 
society, must see class as Stand, as an acting aggregate. He must under- 
stand the spiritual aggregates of which they are the expression." 

Werner Sombart 

Werner Sombart^' is clearer. He distinguishes between estates 
(Stdnde) and classes. His conception of "social class" or "class" is that 
which we have called political class above. To him : "Estates are large 
unions based upon a community of living, and organically integrated 
in a community; classes, on the other hand, are large individualistic 
unions held together externally by common interests in an economic 
system and mechanically integrated in a community."" Estates develop 
naturally as a factor in community life, but they are essentially legal 
entities. "To this inner nature the estate owes its political significance : 
it becomes almost everywhere a legal community and is integrated as 
such, with certain tasks, in the whole of the state. . . . The estate 
feels itself as being a part of a great organism, to whose aims it subor- 
dinates its own aims."^ 

Quite different from the estate is the social class (political class in 
our meaning). 

The class does not arise in a natural way, but is created artificially. To 
be sure, certain communities of destinies of life are present, but not that 
easy living together in a natural community. The class presents a con- 
sciously developed conviction of belonging together; therefore, class cohe- 
sion is brought in from the outside, so to speak, by way of a reflective 
process of consciousness. So long as a community of interest has not been 
impressed on the consciousness of the individuals, the class will not come 
into being. Therefore, a class has class consciousness, but we consider it 
to be nonsense to talk of class-honor, to which some conscious process of 
class-solidarity corresponds.* 

""Stande und Klassen," Der Moderne Kapitalismus, II, 2. 
^Ibid., p. 1 09 1. 
*Ibid., p. 1092. 
*Ibid., p. 1093. 

286 Caste, Class, and Race 

Sombart definitely recognizes "class" as a conflict group, but he 
thinks "the social class is an entirely modem formation. Antiquity 
knows only germs of social classes. The latter emerged as an offspring 
of capitalism in recent European history."^ Thus he conceives of "class 
action" as essentially a bourgeoisie-proletariat struggle;^ in our sense 
this constitutes only one situation of political-class struggle. 

Sombart also sees a distinction between "class," estate, and "social 
strata" ; that is, the status order we have called social class above. Thus 
he says, and we shall quote him fully : 

Besides these fairly clearly definable large groups, estate and class, we 
distinguish in addition a social structure, whose limits, however, disappear 
in a fog. We designate these also in German by the expression "Stand," or 
"ordre" in French, and "class" in English, but only with some prefix such 
as "middle" — e.g., the Mittelstand, the moyen ordre, or the middle class. 
These groups obviously have nothing to do with an estate or a class in the 
previously designated meaning, for they really exist as a unity only in the 
conception [in der Vorstellung] of statisticians, social theoreticians, social 
pedagogues and other third persons. This social structure is conceived of 
by dividing the members of a community into [mostly] three parts or strata 
according to their income: an upper, a middle, and a lower stratum.^ 

The author goes on to discuss the origin of estates from professional 

Max Weber 

Max Weber is not so clear as Sombart. One part of his discussion' is 
too much in outline form and another® is almost an economic philoso- 
phy of class (political class) . Class is here conceived of as a function of 
the market. Indeed, the author speaks of "class position" as "market 

Weber recognizes many types of class: "possessing or property 
class," "earning or income class," "social class," and subdivisions of 
these, but here class becomes a classification rather than a sociological 
concept. At any rate, such leading passages as the following are con- 
fusing : 

The organization of classes purely on the basis of property is not dy- 
namic, i.e., it does not necessarily lead to class struggle and class revolution. 
The decidedly positively privileged property class of slave owners often 

''Ibid., p. 1094. 

"Ibid., p. 1094. 

''Ibid., p. 1094. 

'^Wirtschajt und Gesellschaft, Vol. I, Chap. II, "Stande und Klassen." 

*Ibid., "Klasse, Stand, Parteien," Vol. II, pp. 631-40, passim. 

The Literature on Class 287 

exists side by side with the much less positively privileged class of peasants, 
even with the "declasse," frequently without any feeling of class an- 
tagonism. ... A classical example of the lack of class antagonism was 
the relation of the "poor white trash" to the planters in the Southern 
States. The "poor white trash" was far more hostile to the Negroes. ^° 

This leads us to think that political classes may be organized on a prop- 
erty basis; however^ when such is the case, they evidently are "not 
dynamic," which reasoning seems to involve a mixture of the idea of 
status and of political-class action. By accepting the illusion of basic 
antagonism between "poor white trash" and Negroes, Weber seems to 
evince some misunderstanding of the nature of pohtical-class action. 
Moreover, his discussion of "status segregation" developing into caste, 
with "ethnic" or blood relationships as the basis of caste, is very mis- 

Neither are we at all sure of ourselves, after reading Weber's typo- 
logical discussion of class, on being presented with the following: 

A society may be called estatelike \Stdndisch\ where social differenti- 
ations are made mainly according to estates, classlike {Klassenmdssig\, if 
they are made primarily according to classes. Of the "classes," the "social 
class" is nearest to the estate, the "income class" is furthest. Estates are 
often formed, in terms of their center of gravity, by "property classes."^^ 

"°Ibid., Vol. I, p. 178. 

"Ibid., p. 180. 

Recently C. Wright Mills in his detailed review of Warner and Lunt's book, The 
Social Life of a Modern Community, seems to have employed Max Weber's cate- 
gories of class criteria with some enthusiasm. To Mills class "includes the sheerly 
economic and nothing else," rentier, salaried, wage earner, et al. ; status refers to the 
"distribution of 'prestige,' 'deference,' 'esteem,' 'honor' "; and power refers to the in- 
fluencing attributes of individuals: "Who can be expected to obey whom." (See 
American Sociological Review, April 1942, Vol. VII, p. 262.) He assumes that 
these three are "analytically separable dimensions," and that it is possible to make 
"distinctions between class and status, between class and class-awareness, and be- 
tween status and status awareness." He evidently feels also that Weber's concept of 
"negatively privileged income classes" and "positively privileged income classes" 
might have been employed to advantage in that study. 

But of all Mills's excellent criticism of those results, the least convincing is his 
attempt to suggest possibilities for these references. Weber's "class" is only one pos- 
sible functional classification of economic groups. It is rather meaningless in a study 
of social classes because its divisions ordinarily have homogeneity neither in wealth, 
interest, nor "class awareness." Therefore, the suggestion that these divisions of his 
class are associated with a determinable and separable status remains to be demon- 
strated. Prestige, deference, esteem, honor can have no existence apart from the 
social facts which confer them ; indeed they are inconceivable apart from such facts. 

The second bipartite classification into negatively and positively privileged income 
groups is not recognized as such by members of American communities. Further- 
more, although Weber does give examples of functional groups belonging to each of 
the latter divisions, the problem of separating all persons in the society on the basis 
of this criterion of privilege is quite another matter. Moreover, granting for the 
moment that this is done, what, really, do we have finally? Two income groups in 
opposition? See also H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, "Class, Status, Party," a 
translation of Max Weber in Politics, October 1944, pp. 271-78. 

288 Caste, Class, and Race 

R. M. Maclver 

In discussing the work of Professor Maclver^^ we have an oppor- 
tunity to observe the characteristic approach of the EngHsh and Amer- 
ican sociological literature. This approach may be described as a dis- 
dain for careful study of the political class, a frank denial that there is 
any such class, or a confusion of the concept of social and political 
classes. The analysis in most textbooks stands approximately at parity 
with the following. 

In his definition Maclver says: "We shall . . . mean by a social 
class any portion of a community which is marked off from the rest 
. . . primarily by social status. ... It is the sense of status, sustained 
by economic, political, or ecclesiastical power and by the distinctive 
modes of life and cultural expressions corre-sponding to them, which 
draws class apart from class, gives cohesion to each, and stratifies the 
whole society."^^ In this definition we probably have as significant .an 
error as any in the various conceptualizations of social classes. A social 
class is not "marked off from the rest" ; neither is it "drawn apart" from 
other classes; furthermore, it has no "cohesion" as an entity. 

In seeking actual social classes by way of such a definition, the author 
goes clearly astray. Thus he asserts : 

The owner-farmer and the tenant-farmer [in North America] . . . 
form a social class as we have defined it, for the factor of status is bound 
up with their mode of living, their sense of proprietorship, their relatively 
low and inelastic income, their economic solidarity set over against that of 
other groups, and their relative, though diminishing, segregation from the 
cultural influences which play upon urban populations.^^ 

The false lead continues to gyrate even to the extent of including 
ethnic relations. Thus the author writes : 

A broader class distinction may be asserted in the name of the pride of 
race, such as that between the West European stocks and the "new immi- 
grant," between Gentile and the Jew. But these barriers do not create 
clearly defined social classes, and some of them seem to be transitional 
lines, becoming less determinative in the degree in which cultural diff"er- 
ences between groups are merged in the new environment. Only the racial 
barrier of color completely resists the triumphant claim of wealth to be at 
length the chief determinant of class, and this defeat is less decisive be- 
cause of the general poverty of the colored people.^ ^ 

'^Society, Chap. IX, "Class and Caste." 

"Ibid., p. 167. Further, "Class distinctions rest in the last resort ... on status." 
P. 167. 

"Ibid., pp. 169-70. (Italics added.) 
^^Ibid., pp. 170-71. 

The Literature on Class 289 

Professor Maclver also questions the position of the class-struggle 
writers in a way not uncommon among American sociologists. "It 
should be observed," he emphasizes, "that we have not defined social 
class in purely economic terms. This alternative mode of definition, 
generally maintained by the followers of Karl Marx, stresses a very 
important factor that commonly underlies class distinctions, but it is 
inadequate sociologically."^® Continuing, the author brings the three 
concepts of political class, social class, and estate into one wad as a 
contradiction of the Marxists. Thus he declares: "Certainly in coun- 
tries of western civilization the Marxist dichotomy is too sweeping to 
fit the facts of the class system. So broad a division and so sharp a 
cleavage are more applicable to a feudal order, such as that of pre- 
revolutionary Russia, than a complex industrialized society."^^ 

In judging the Russian system, the concepts of political class and 
status are entangled; in other words, a political-classless society is un- 
derstood to mean a statusless society. Accordingly, he observes: 
". . . the communist ideal of a 'classle&s society' is by no means fully 
realized in communist Russia, where there remain different degrees of 
prestige attaching to occupation, party membership, and political posi- 

Furthermore, Maclver thinks that class struggle emerges when tradi- 
tion weakens and classes cease to be complementary. "If . . . tradi- 
tion weakens and class struggle emerges, the attitudes of the opposing 
classes — one conservative and striving to maintain, the other radical 
and striving to overthrow an order — cease to be complementary and 
become as different as the social values for which they respectively 
strive. "^^ And class sentiment unites those who feel alike; more specif- 
ically, it unites the upper against the lower class. "[Class sentiment] 
does . . . unite those who feel distinct from other classes, but it unites 
them primarily because they feel distinct. Above all, it unites the 
'superior' against the 'inferior.' It emanates from the belief in superi- 

^^bid., p. 167. 

^■^Ibid., p. 177. 

^*Ibid., p. I 74. The following passage illustrates still further Maclver's confusion 
of status and political class: "It is unjustifiable to think of them all as belonging to 
the large capitalists and financiers. If they are united, it is only in a negative posi- 
tion, as being generally anti-socialistic; but this is hardly enough to constitute them 
a social class. They differ widely in their social stations and ambitions." Ibid., p. 178. 

^"Ibid., p. 1 73. 

In a question presented for discussion, John Lewis Gillin, et al., epitomize a 
similar confusion : "Explain why in the Middle Ages inferiority and superiority in 
social status did not create class conflict, while today the ostentatious assumption of 
superiority by any class results in resentment by those who, by inference, are in- 
ferior." Social Problems, 3d ed., p. 65. 

290 Caste, Class, and Race 

ority ; so that class division is really imposed on the lower by the higher 
classes."^" Thus the latter brings us back to the original misconception.^^ 

A. W. Kornhauser 

In a study of certain statistics^^ intended to throw light on class rela- 
tionships in the United States, Professor Kornhauser begins by asking 
the following questions : "Is our contemporary American Society com- 
posed of 'classes'? Does the population fall into several broad social 
groups holding opposed viewpoints and values? Or is it rather true, as 
so often is dogmatically declared, that in America there are no classes, 
there are only the artificial antagonisms stirred up by alien agitators 
and political demagogues?" ^^ Evidently Kornhauser is about to initiate 
a study of political-class struggle in the United States. But one wonders 
as he reads that "problems of 'class' are concerned essentially with the 
social orientation presumed to grow out of people"'s contrasting ob- 
jective conditions. A social class consists of those sections of the popula- 
tion which feel similarly concerning their position and interests, which 
have a common outlook and distinctive common attitudes." ^^ And as 
the author reaches a conclusion, one is almost convinced that he is now 
talking about social classes; that is to say, social status. Thus he says: 
"Whatever gaps remain in the evidence . . . the conclusion is definite 
that income and occupational classes do differ in scholastic background 
and in intellectual ability as measured by tests. The upper classes are, 
in this sense, 'superior.' All the studies, however, show a great amount 
of overlapping of groups.""^ 

Notwithstanding, the argument switches again to a political-class 
discussion. Without warning the author writes: "That large differ- 
ences do exist between income and occupational groups in their opinion 
on important issues of the day can no longer be denied even by those 
least willing to admit the fact. The split of opinion on various New 
Deal measures and other current issues has become increasingly ap- 

^"Maclver, op. cit., p. 173. 

'^Maclver does say that "the system is no longer tier above tier, but a continuous 
incline" (ibid., p. 175) ; and that "in feudal times it was a series of disconnected 
stages." Ibid., p. 171. However, these statements only add to the confusion, for they 
are made sporadically, without apparent relevance. 

""Analysis of Class Structure of Contemporary American Society," in Industrial 
Conflict, ed. by George W. Hartmann and Theodore Newcomb. 

=^Ibid., p. 199. 

^Ibid., p. 200. 

"Ibid., p. 209. 

^Ibid., p. 232. 

The Literature on Class 291 

At length, however, the purpose of the researcher dawns upon us: 
it is to show that differences in social status go hand in hand with 
"differences in contentment"; and differences in contentment will re- 
sult in differences in desirability of the status quo. In other words, "the 
figures tend to support the hypothesis . . . that the differences among 
socio-economic classes are largely differences in contentment, life- 
satisfactions, personal adjustments. These variations in feeling can be 
expected naturally to manifest themselves in opposed views concerning 
the present social order and the desirability of change in a 'radical 
direction.' "^'^ 

At any rate, whatever Professor Komhauser's figures show, his ex- 
pectation that lower-status (class) people are "naturally" more radical 
is open to question. Indeed, we may state that the proposition is 
erroneous and follows, in fact, from a confusion of the status and the 
political-class idea. It is not the misery of status but the "misery of 
comparison" vyhich breeds discontent. Status groups are "naturally" 
harmonious; social discontent is a political-class attitude which must 
be studied as such. We may venture to state that "radicalism" is most 
likely to develop in situations of general cultural or industrial change. 
We should expect the outcastes of India, for instance, to live from 
generation to generation without developing radicals; but with the in- 
creasing urbanization of India, the educating of untouchables, and a 
larger and larger number of renegade Brahmans becoming their lead- 
ers, social unrest will be inevitable. 

Other Authorities 

In the following paragraphs we shall make briefer reference to the 
works of other students of social stratification. 

William F. Ogbum and Delvin Peterson analyzed the votes cast on 
a number of social questions by "the upper- middle- laboring- and 
rural-class" together with the city dwellers in Oregon and came to the 
conclusion that "the figures show little indication of class conflict, nor 
do they point to a revolution. They rather point toward harmony and 
show a considerable ability on the part of the social classes to get along 
together."'^ It seems to us, however, that neither social classes nor 
political classes were isolated ; and for that reason one could hardly be 
certain about the meaning of the results. 

^Ibid., p. 243. 

^"Political Thought of Social Classes," Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 31, 19 16, 
P- 317- 

292 Caste, Class, and R ace 

Paul Mombert, in his discussion of class, attempts to achieve a 
monistic explanation of class. He finds that other writers have had quite 
different conceptions of class and concludes that the fact "that various 
theorists should have found the essential nature of class in such differ- 
ent attributes is to a great extent due to their having in mind different 
historical periods, for in the historical development of classes essential 
changes have taken place in their nature.""'' Apparently Mombert 
thinks that the phenomenon of class has changed essentially in its evo- 
lution. It seems that the author does not realize that he is saying that the 
social class has become a political class. For what else could the follow- 
ing statement mean: "The determining forces in class formation have 
been in early times social and in recent times mainly economic"?^" And 
probably estates, social classes, and political classes find themselves 
easily combined in the assertion that "in the course of historical de- 
velopment new criteria for the essential nature of classes have arisen to 
supplant the old."^^ 

Raymond B. Cattell agrees that there are no gaps in the status 
structure of most Western societies. "But in relation to other variables 
and other societies, e.g., that of India, it is obvious that discontinuities 
exist, and that the term 'social stratum' is accurate as a metaphor in its 
full geological sense."^^ Cattell evidently thinks that castes are discrete 
social classes. 

Sorokin, Zimmerman, and Galpin have developed a whole system 
of skewed and off-color hypotheses and conclusions as a result of their 
basic confusion of the phenomena of social stratification. Here is the 
essential position of these authors: 

The agricultural population ... is stratified economically from the 
standpoints of wealth, income, and economic standard of living; occupa- 
tionally from the standpoint of domination and control on the one hand 
and subjection and execution on the other; and politically from the stand- 
point of social and political privileges and prestige. Although the rural 
pyramid is much less stratified than the urban . . . stratification has al- 
ways existed to some extent among the agricultural population. 

... it is possible to discriminate the following principal strata of the 
agricultural population: 

1. Proprietors of large, latifundia-type, agricultural enterprises. 

2. Proprietors of smaller capitalist agricultural enterprises. 

^"Class," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 

^"The Concept of Social Status," The Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. 15, 
May 1942, p. 296. 

The Literature on Class 293 

3. Managers and tenants of large capitalist enterprises. 

4. Proprietors of farmer-capitalist agricultural enterprises. 

5. Proprietors of farmer agricultural enterprises. 

6. Tenants of capitalist agricultural enterprises. 

7. Tenants of farmer-capitalist agricultural enterprises. 

8. Tenants of farmer agricultural enterprises. 

9. Higher employees of capitalist and farmer-capitalist enterprises. 

10. Proprietors of the peasant-consumptive agricultural enterprises. 

11. Tenants of peasant-consumptive agricultural enterprises. 

12. Proprietors of proletarianizing or small decaying agricultural en- 


13. Hired laborers of various types. 

... in essentials their hierarchial sequence is practically that given 
above, and, what is more important, all these strata actually exist, within 
the total agricultural population of various countries. Each of these strata 
is divided further into a series of substrata according to the amount of in- 
come, prestige, and occupational function. Thus the whole agricultural 
population gives a rather high pyramid of social stratification. 

. . . the existence of different social strata with their differences in eco- 
nomic, occupational, and social-political fields, always leads to greater or 
lesser conflicts of interests and to psycho-social and economic antagonism 
between these strata. The greater the stratification, the greater become 
these conflicts and antagonisms. In the city, where stratification is greater 
than in the country, the antagonisms of class struggles are also greater. But 
since stratification exists in the rural aggregate also, it follows that such an 
aggregate is not entirely free from clash, conflict, and antagonisms in the 
relationships of the strata that constitute the aggregate. As the social 
distance between the very top of the rural pyramid and its lowest stratum 
of hired laborers or poor peasants is particularly great, the antagonisms 
between these strata are particularly conspicuous. In a latent form it al- 
ways exists. From time to time it takes the form of an overt explosion in a 
revolutionary movement of the poorest rural classes against the large land- 
lords and landholders. History is filled with the records of such move- 

Professor Sorokin and his collaborators assert very much more than 
they demonstrate. At any rate, we may state briefly that they appear to 
be in error because they assume: (a) that their classification of types 
of agricultural functions applies universally to agricultural peoples, 
(b) that it is a description of natural social strata, (c) that modem 
urban populations are socially stratified into discrete strata, (d) that 
the so-called social strata are political classes and therefore conflict 
groups, and (e) that class conflict is a function of social distance. As 

^Pitirim A. Sorokin, Carle C. Zimmerman, and Charles J. Galpin, A Systematic 
Source Book in Rural Sociology, Vol. I, pp. 362-68. (Italics added.) 

294 Caste, Class, and Race 

we have attempted to show from previous discussions, all these assump- 
tions are highly questionable.^^" 

Statements like the following by Alfred Meusel are unsuspectingly 
confusing: "The transition from capitalism to a classless socialist 
society involves more radical and far reaching changes than suppression 
of the feudal order by the bourgeois system, both of which are marked 
by internal antagonism between an upper and a lower class.""^ The 
terms "upper" and "lower classes" have been ordinarily used to 
designate status groups in a social-class system ; and the use of them in 
this reference to political-class antagonism tends to lump the concepts. 

Morris Ginsberg ofTers the following definition of social classes; how- 
ever, it seems better as a description of social estates. 

Classes in modern society [he writes] may be described as groups of indi- 
viduals who, through common consent, similarity of occupation, wealth 
and education, have come to have a similar mode of life, a similar stock of 
ideas, feelings, attitudes and forms of behavior and who, on any or all 
these grounds, meet one another on equal terms and regard themselves, 
although with varying degrees of explicitness, as belonging to one group.^^ 

W. Lloyd Warner and Paul S. Lunt have published two volumes^^ 
representing studies based mainly on a mistaken conception of the 
social-class structure of a contemporary American city. They are the 
most pretentious works on social class in recent literature; and at the 
same time a monumental illustration of what is likely to occur when a 
researcher goes into the field with a conviction which must be satisfied. 
In this case the conviction was that the status system of a modern urban 
center in the United States is divided into ascertainable, segregable, 
social classes. 

The two volumes, of course, do not show this; yet somehow "six 
classes and seven different kinds of social structure" are made to ap- 
pear.^ ^ The persons, themselves, in the community investigated were 
not conscious of the full determinants of their status, for the authors 
say : "It must not be thought that all people in Yankee City are aware 
of all the minute distinctions made in this book."^* At any rate, the fact 

^^For a difTerent statement but equally faulty approach, see Pitirim A. Sorokin, 
Society, Culture, and Personality, pp. 256-95. 

^"Revolution and Counter-Revolution," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 

^"Class Consciousness," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 

^^The Social Life of a Modern Community and The Status System of a Modern 
Community, Vols. I and II, respectively, of Yankee City Series. 

^'Op. cit., Vol. II, p. 15 J see also Vol. I, p. 28. 

**Op. cit.. Vol. I, p. 91. 

The Literature on Class 295 

that "the six social classes" set "apart from" one another are not in 
"Yankee City" but rather in the books is brought out most clearly in 
Volume 11. There it is possible to move classes or parts of them about 
like men on a checkerboard without even so much as a thought of an 
on-going society. The authors have achieved an artificiality which is 
progressively dissociated from reality because their basic assumption is 

A. M. Carr-Saunders and D. Caradog Jones, after a fairly exhaustive 
demographic study of "the social structure of England and Wales,"*" 
confessed that they had been able to find no social classes — they were 
unable to find segregable social strata. However, although these authors 
might be able to force such investigators as Warner and his associates 
to admit that they, too, did not find social classes in the United States, 
the English students are themselves identifying social and political 

Thus they inquire: "Do social classes exist? We hear less than 
formerly of the 'upper,' 'middle,' and 'lower' social classes. We do, 
however, hear much about 'class consciousness' and 'class warfare.' If 
class warfare is a fact, it should be possible for the statistician to esti- 
mate the strength of the battalions ranged against each other." 

From the outset, then, the authors seem to have mixed the con- 
cepts of social class and pxDlitical class. Status groups do not have 
"battalions," And the battalions of political classes may permit them- 
selves to be entirely known only after or during a revolution. 

"Social classes," they continue, "may . . . be a sheer figment of the 
imagination. ... At one time many factors conspired together to 
produce an 'upper' class. . . . There is no longer any recognizable 
'upper' class, and as to the 'middle' class, it never was anything more 

^More specifically this study of a social-class system seems to have gone astray 
because : 

(a) The researchers had no workable definition of social class; consequently they 
were never able to organize their data according to a precise and consistent set of 
class criteria. This deficiency renders even their display of crude data untrustworthy. 

(b) They believed that the "veterinary" techniques and methods developed to 
meet the exigencies of the study of simple, preliterate societies could be adopted with 
little, if any, modification to the study of complex, enlightened urban centers. The 
blank-mind or exploratory procedure has apparently been efTectively employed in 
many anthropological projects; but as an approach to the study of social phenomena 
in modern society, it may involve a degree of rambling effort which amounts to utter 

(c) Of little concern with the community studied as a functional entity, and in- 
ordinate preoccupation with static ideas about social structure. 

(d) Of inadequate statistical preparation for the handling and interpretation of 
mass social data, and of their not developing out of the exigencies of the problem 
itself a sufficient statistical methodology. 

^A Survey of the Social Structure of England and Wales. 

296 Caste, Class, and Race 

than a heterogeneous assemblage of very diverse and non-cohesive 

Here the idea of the old estate system seems to be associated with that 
of the modem conceptual social class. The authors go on to think of 
workers as a status group and, in the same breath, to identify them as a 
political class. At length they arrive at the inevitable confusion in their 
criticism of the proletarian leadership for having read bad books. 

Thus they write : 

At the present day the wage-earning element of the employed group 
does, it is true, exhibit a certain degree of cohesion. The specific character- 
istics of wage-earning are well marked. . . . Many factors do thus com- 
bine to produce one moderately cohesive and self-conscious group. But it 
is misleading to speak of class divisions and class distinctions today, be- 
cause no other similar groups exist. . . . When ... it comes to practical 
issues there is seldom or never to be found a sharp dividing line between 
wage-earners and the rest. The line sometimes falls in one place and some- 
times in another.*^ Persuasive appeals are made to workers by hand and 
brain. . . . Strident orders are issued to embark upon class warfare. But 
who is on one side and where is the enemy? The belief in the existence of 
social classes, or even of one social class ... is the result of studying 
social theory of doubtful value and of neglecting social facts.*^ 

Finally we present some contributions from Kimball Young/^ 

Within the caste or class itself [the author generalizes] there is a distinct 
sense of co-operation, common interest, and awareness of status. That is, 
there are common habits, attitudes, sentiments, ideas and values upon 
which the members agree and upon which they may and do act in har- 

^'The authors' difficulty here may be simply a non-recognition of the difference 
between "practical issues" and political-class questions. 

"^All quotations from the work cited, pp. 70—73. 

A similar position is taken by a Mexican writer, Lucio Mendieta y Nuiiez. Says 
Nunez: "What role do social classes perform in the organization and functioning of 
society? For a long time there has been talk of 'class struggle' as a result of the 
division of the human groups in society; as a consequence whereof it would seem 
that in this struggle is summed up the sociological importance of the classes. A care- 
ful observation of the facts, however, leads us to the conviction that no such struggle 
is going on, that in this case we have to deal with a phrase become indestructible 
thanks to the political dynamism with which it is weighted. 

"For a class struggle properly conceived to exist, it would be necessary for each 
class to be organized and to oppose, as an organization, the others, at the same time 
seeking to gain a more or less well-defined objective. We have already noted, how- 
ever, that the social classes are complexes of a cultural and economic character, put 
together or formed in the social realities as such, not as artificially constituted for 
struggle. ... 

"Those talking of class struggle would find it hard to explain against whom the 
middle class is fighting. . . . The existence — ignored by the Marxist classification — 
of the three classes: higher, middle, and lower is evident." American Sociological 
Review, Vol. 11, April 1946, pp. 175-76, 

^An Introductory Sociology, rev. ed. 

The Literature on Class 297 

mony. . . . Unity as well as a sense of difference from others is supported 
by all sorts of external marks of privilege and prestige, such as costumes, 
badges, and distinctive duties and rights.** 

To be sure, there were no illustrations of this. However, after criti- 
cizing the class-struggle writers evidently without recognizing their 
meaning, Young concludes: 

The class struggle implies the break-down of a particular equilibrium 
which has grown up among the classes. Where one class — military, po- 
litical, ecclesiastical, or economic — has come to dominate a society, the 
whole societal structure may be ordered in reference to this. But a crisis, 
like the Industrial Revolution, a new religion, or a war, may bring about 
tensions and unrest leading to an attempt by other classes to overthrow 
the dominance of the elite at the top.*^ 

The following selection illustrates clearly the amorphous nature of 
these ideas: 

Intra-class conflict Is a form of struggle between those who are members 
of a large group and who accept some common premises of behavior. It is 
never so violent or destructive as inter-class conflict. Within the wide class 
of aristocracy, for example, there is always rivalry and conflict for status, 
jealousy for honors and privileges. Within the working classes there is 
struggle for jobs, status and advancement. . . . So-called native Ameri- 
can laborers have periodically opposed the demands of immigrant workers 
for a larger share of the jobs and the pay. Within the races themselves 
there is often an intense struggle. . . . The mulatto is opposed by the pure 
black, who is jealous of the former's achievements. Within the sect or 
denornination the members may carry' on an intense campaign for power. 
In short, intra-class conflict is but another term for factional fights within 
any we-group. . . .*^ 

In this chapter we have not attempted to cite exhaustively from the 
literature on social stratification.''' Our purpose has been to present a 
representative sample of the thinking on this subject; and for this we 
selected from the more recent works. 

^Ibid., p. 811. 

"Ibid., p. 680. 

'«Ibid., pp. 681-82. 

^'For very recent distortions of this subject, see Raymond B. Cattell, "The Con- 
cept of Social Status," The Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. XV, May 1942, 
pp. 293-308; "The Cultural Functions of Social Stratification I" and "The Cultural 
Functions of Social Stratification II," The Journal of Social Psychology, Vol. XXI, 
February 1945, pp. 3-55. Also B. Moore, Jr., "A Comparative Analysis of Class 
Struggle," American Sociological Review, Vol. X, February 1945, pp. 31-37. 

15, Class and Caste 


and differentiation of some of the characteristics of the caste and 
the social-class system. Some repetition may be necessary in the interest 
of clarity. 

Castes as Rigid Classes 

Recently writers on aspects of social stratification have been thinking 
'■'^ of social status in terms of a continuum of societies. At one end are 
societies in which the status of the individual tends to remain fixed for 
life ; at the other are societies in which the opportunity for advancement 
of status of the individual is recognized and even encouraged. In other 
words, at the one end are caste systems, at the other the so-called "open 
\ class systems." 

In 1498 the Portuguese adventurers who landed at Calicut with 
Vasco da Gama observed that in India society was organized in a num- 
ber of endogamous groups with inferior and superior social positions 
held in perpetuity. They compared this with the social mobility familiar 
to them in the West and finally called it casta. Since then (about the 
middle of the sixteenth century) almost numberless writers have made 
the same observations. A recognition of relative rigidity of social status 
among different status systems, then, is no contribution of modern 

What is new, however, is an insistent attempt by many students of 
social stratification to identify rigidity of social status, in whatever 
social context it is found, with caste ; and to conceive of castes as mere 
petrified, rigid, or endogamous social classes. For instance, A. L. 
Kroeber says : 

Castes . . . are a special form of social classes which in tendency at 
least are present in every society. Castes differ from social classes, how- 

Class and Caste 299 

ever, in that they have emerged into social consciousness to the point that 
custom and law attempt their rigid and permanent separation from one 

However, if we examine these situations more closely we should 
recognize that the structure of a social class is categorically difTerent 
from that of the caste. If we think, for the moment, of a social class as a 
status stratum consisting of individuals with heterogeneous economic, 
political, and religious interests, then, so far as we know, there has been 
no instance in which a class became increasingly stable until at length 
it crystallized into a caste. Apparently the factor which is supposed to 
produce the rigidity or inertia in the transformation of a class into a 
caste is endogamy. But, historically speaking, endogamy has had the 
function of securing the segregation of class membership rather than 
that of solidifying classes. At this point we should mention that a class, 
one conceptual segment of a classification, does not move ; only status- 
bearing entities may have social mobility. 

The belief that the caste system consists of four castes constituting 
a status gradient has led to very much confusion. As a matter of fact, 
there has never been any support for this belief." Indeed, so far as the 
caste system is concerned, an endogamous social class is anomalous. 
The conception of the social class may include castes, while the caste 
consists of individuals. The social class may be conceived as a form of 
social stratification and difTerentiation ; the caste may be a form of 
social differentiation only. Castes may have collateral social status; 
social classes must of necessity be hierarchically superposed. Thus two 
different castes may be socially equal — that is to say, they may be of 
the same social level just as, for instance, stationary engineers and elec- 

^"Caste," Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Shridhar V. Ketkar concludes: 
"Classes are converted into castes by becoming endogamous." The History of Caste 
in India, Vol. I, p. 28. According to Ogburn and Nimkoff: "Class societies may be 
represented as extending all the way from those like the above [castes], which are 
relatively rigid or closed, to those which are flexible and open." Sociology, p. 317. 
And Davis and Dollard say: "Caste in the [American] South is nothing more nor 
less . . . than a system of limiting social participation between color groups, and 
thus differentiating between these groups with regard to the most fundamental op- 
portunities in human society. In this latter respect it is quite like our system of social 
classes. It differs from the class system in its arbitrary and final definition of the indi- 
vidual's status." Children of Bondage, pp. 19-20. To the same effect, see Talcott 
Parsons, "An Analytical Approach to the Theory of Social Stratification," American 
Journal of Sociology, Vol. XLV, May 1940, p. 855. E. A. Ross is explicit: "Class 
hardens into caste when the jealous upper class resists or retards the admission of 
commoners, however great their merit or wealth." Principles of Sociology, p. 341. 

"On this point E. A. Gait agrees: "It has . . . been shown by Senart and others 
that the division into castes has no direct relation with the division into classes. The 
castes came into existence independently, without any regard to the classes. The 
individual castes no doubt claimed to belong to one or other of the classes, but this 
they still do." Census of India, igi i, Vol. I, Part i, p. 365. 

300 Caste, Class, and Race 

tricians may be of the same social class. Frequently in class systems 
lateral status extends beyond the immediate society, so that an Amer- 
ican, a Greek, an Englishman, and an Italian of the upper social class 
in their respective countries will tend to recognize each other in free 
association on common ground. In other words, an Englishman may 
go to France and marry within his class with impunity. The caste, how- 
ever, is socially bounded on every side. 

We may illustrate further. There is in some of these caste-class 
analogies the spurious historical implication either that existing castes 
have been at some time social classes or that existing social classes might 
be expected to "harden" into castes. It need hardly be said, however, 
that neither of these propositions has been demonstrated. Social classes 
are not founded upon occupational limitations in the sense that castes 
are. One of the principal features of castes is that they identify them- 
selves functionally. Thus, if it were possible to conceive of the "middle 
class" in the United States as becoming endogamous, the resulting 
social entity would be very much different from any group that we have 
ever known as a caste in India. It would contain priests, racketeers, 
dancers, nurses, tanners, doctors, butchers, teachers, sewerage workers, 
undertakers, farmers, mechanics, Protestants, Mohammedans, Catho- 
lics, Jews, whites, reds, and blacks, and so on. Clearly, no one could fit 
this social agglomeration into the concept of caste. ^ "Class and caste 
stand to each other in relation, not of parent and child, but of family 
and species. The general classification is by classes, the detailed one by 
castes. The former represent the external, the latter the internal view of 
social organization."* 

The greater the disparity in position between social class and social 
class, the less frequent are interclass marriages and the stronger are the 
sanctions against them. Indeed, the two extremes of most class hier- 
archies may be thought of as endogamous with respect to each other. 
Yet obviously classes are not transformed into castes directly as differ- 
ence in social position increases. 

^Of course reasoning would be seriously inverted if we were to assume that should 
the class become endogamous it would soon cease to be so diverse. The group must 
first cease to be diverse before it can achieve caste endogamy, and not vice versa. 

*E. A. Gait, op. cit., p. 366. 

Class and Caste 301 

Structure of Class and Caste. "Hierarchy" 

Since in a social-class society status attributes are achieved competi- 
tively, the shape of the status gradient must of necessity be pyramidal/ 
In other words, the greater the desirability of the status, the greater the 
difficulty of achieving it. The higher one rises, the keener is the rivalry 
and the fewer the rivals. Thus the size of the class tends to vary in- 
versely with superiority of status. The shape of the caste hierarchy is, 
however, unpredictable, for caste membership is principally a function 
of the birth rate of caste populations. Although we have no data on 
caste membership by "natural districts" in India, figures for the coun- 
try as a whole show that some of the higher castes, such as Brahmans 
and Shaikhs, have the largest membership. Indeed, the Brahmans have 
a larger membership than any other.^ We may venture the speculation 
that since the lowest castes are usually recruited from those primitive 
tribes on the periphery of the caste system it is probable that the shape 
of the caste hierarchy may appear like an inverted truncated pyramid. 

The social-class gradient is a status continuum. We think of it as in- 
cluding discrete strata only for purposes of analysis and comprehension. 
Castes, however, are distinct segregable social groupings. While con- 
ceptual, class strata — if they are to be meaningful — must be few, the 
numbers of castes may be practically unlimited. Castes may be classi- 
fied, but classes are already social classifications. As we have indicated 
elsewhere, there may be social classes within castes,^ but it is obvious 
that there can be no sense in speaking of social classes within social 
classes. A crucial difference between a social class and a caste is that, 
with reference to the social order, the caste is a status-bearing entity, 
while the social class is a conceptual stratum of status-bearing entities. 

Therefore, the class is not a form of social organization; that is to 
say, it is not organized in the sense that a caste is. To illustrate, we may 
think of segregating all the castes in Brahmanic India according to 
some scheme of classification and then pigeonholing them under the 
following headings: high, low-high, middle, low, and lowest. Here, 

^In most modern communities there are probably a smaller number of persons in 
the lowest status groups — those who have fallen out of the competitive stream, the 
dross of the society, those who live on charity — hence a beehive structure may more 
nearly represent the fact. 

°See Imperial Gazetteer of India, new ed., Vol. I, Table XII, p. 498. Cf. J. G. 
Kumarappa, "Handicrafts and Cottage Industries in India," The Annals, May 1944, 
p. 107. 

'^See also Abbe Dubois, Hindu Manners, Customs, and Ceremonies, 3d ed., pp. 

302 Caste, Class, and Race 

then, will be a hierarchy of classes of castes. We may be able to describe 
these classes and even show that some vague sense of their approximate 
status tends to determine differential behavior attitudes of persons 
within them. But what finally is the nature of these two structures : our 
classes and the castes? Clearly the classes are not forms of social organi- 
zation and, as such, we should expect them to have little if anything in 
common with the castes constituting them. Moreover, it would seem 
obvious that other taxonomists, according to their criteria of classifica- 
tion, may arrive at quite different distributions of castes. 

In a class system it is the family or person who is the bearer of social 
status; in the caste system it is the caste. The caste system emphasizes 
group status and morality; the individual without a caste is a mean- 
ingless social entity. He is an object naturally ignored by the rest of 
society. In the process of subjectively classifying persons for consistent 
behavior relationships, the individual's rank may be determined only 
through a knowledge of his caste. On the other hand, it would be 
ridiculous to say that we know an individual's rank through a knowl- 
edge of his social class.^ We do not define an individual's status by first 
determining his class position, but rather we determine his class position 
by ascertaining his status.^ 

If we were thinking of status hierarchies only, it is not class and caste 
which we should compare, but rather individuals and families in the 
class system, and subcastes or castes (endogamous units) in the caste 
system. In both cases the number of statuses would be large beyond 
comprehensible limits. To make the hierarchy wieldy, then, some 
scheme of classification with reference to the purpose in hand must be 
consciously or unconsciously devised. We may illustrate the position of 
the person in the social class system and in the caste system by the fol- 
lowing diagram. 

The Problem of Classification 

Because class is collective rank, each social class must inevitably have 
a hierarchical position. Quite obviously, then, there can never be a 
dispute concerning the place of a class. A caste, on the other hand, may 
have no determined place in the caste hierarchy; it will thus be able 

*Cf. Kingsley Davis, "A Conceptual Analysis of Stratification," American Soci- 
ological Review, Vol. 7, June 1942, p. 312. 

"It is recognized, however, that the ability of a person of lower status to associate 
with persons of higher status (social climbing) tends to advance the status of that 
person. Cf. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, 
p. 405. 

304 Caste, Class, and Race 

to claim distinction only. In other words, castes sometimes find them- 
selves in the position of the individual whose precise class rank is either 
undetermined or undeterminable. Yet the individual lives on, and so 
does the caste. Hierarchical organization is essential to the caste system 
but not to the individual caste. It is this fact which is responsible for 
considerable intercaste conflict. Each caste is supposed to have an im- 
memorial right to a definite niche in the caste hierarchy, but the in- 
tegrity of this sanctum rests finally upon custom and public opinion.^** 
And it is in these capricious areas that impregnable caste positions must 
be maintained. 

The social class has objective reference to social position ; it implies 
two co-ordinates : one the composite of status criteria, and the other the 
number of persons capable of meriting the judgment. It is a more or less 
arbitrary ordinal segment of the social-status continuum with incom- 
prehensive margins. 

Indeed, from the point of view of the individual, the class system 
may be thought of as a hierarchy of conceptual, social-status frontiers; 
and since normally every person in our class system vies for superior 
status, he may be said to be marginal in whatever position he finds him- 
self. Social classes, then, may be thought of as somewhat nebulous social 
strata varying in meaning and position with the status of the persons 
seeking to estimate them. This, of course, is not intended to detract 
from the social significance of classes. Reciprocal status classification of 
persons in society is an intuitive procedure necessary in organizing atti- 
tudes for consistent behavior. Even within the caste system, ranking 

^°"As to the particular subdivision of each caste, it is difficult to decide the order 
of the hierarchy observed amongst them. Sub-castes which are despised in one dis- 
trict are often greatly esteemed in another, according as they conduct themselves 
with greater propriety or follow more important callings. Thus the caste to which 
the ruler of a country belongs, however low it may be considered elsewhere, ranks 
among the highest in the ruler's own dominions, and every member of it derives 
some reflection of dignity from its chief. 

"After all, public opinion is the surest guide of caste superiority amongst the 
Sudras, and very slight acquaintance with the customs of a province and with the 
private life of its inhabitants will suffice for fixing the position which each caste has 
acquired by common consent." Abbe Dubois, op. cit., p. 23. 

The following discussion by the Hindu writer, J. H. Bhattacharya, indicates 
further the indecision which questions of caste status sometimes involve: "There is 
very considerable difference of opinion as to the exact position of the Kshettris in 
the Hindu caste system. Some authorities take them to be the same as the bastard 
caste Kshatri, spoken of by Manu as the offspring of a Sudra father by a Kshatriya 
mother. The people of this country include the Kshettris among the Baniya castes, 
and do not admit that they have the same position as the military Rajputs. The 
Kshettris themselves claim to be Kshatriyas, and observe the religious rites and 
duties prescribed by the Shastras for the military caste. But the majority of them live 
either by trade or service as clerks and accountants, and their caste status ought, it 
seems, to be intermediate between that of the Rajputs on the one hand, and the 
Baniyas and the Kayasthas on the other." Hindu Castes and Sects, p. 138. 

Class and Caste 305 

tends to follow some generally accepted system of classification. The 
concept of "the four castes" is one of these generally accepted ideal 
types of classification. 

There is, in fact, no such thing as an objective social class amenable 
to physical circumscription; neither is there a recognizable social-class 
hierarchy in class systems of advanced Western societies. In other 
words, the class system is not stratified; stratification is an idea only.^^ 

It seems necessary now to state the meaning which we have accepted 
in this study for the concept "social stratification," since the term itself 
is not clearly defined in the literature. Sometimes it has been used to 
indicate status differentiation in any social context. Thus, according to 
Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore : "If the rights and perquisites of 
different positions in a society must be unequal, then the society must 
be stratified, because that is precisely what stratification means." ^" In 
this sense, therefore, all societies are socially stratified : "Every society, 
no matter how simple or complex, must differentiate persons in terms of 
both prestige and esteem, and must therefore possess a certain amount 
of institutionalized inequality."^'* If this meaning were consistently 
held by social scientists — that social-status differentiation, atomized or 
otherwise, means social stratification — then it would be sheer logom- 
achy or worse to say that modern urban society is not stratified. In such 
a situation we should have to find some other concept to distinguish in- 
ternally grouped and ungrouped social-status structures. 

But this is not the case. Professor Kimball Young, for instance, 
conceives of social stratification more literally as "the process of forming 
caste, class, or other status-giving groups, or of determining level or 
plane of status for the individual within a group, community, or 
society."^' Therefore, like the dictionary definition of stratification — the 
segregation into layers or strata, especially horizontal layers differenti- 
ated from their neighbors — Young probably limits the concept. Yet it 

"A fairly misleading definition of class is the following: "Classes are inclusive, 
loosely organized groupings whose members behave toward each other as social 
equals and toward outsiders as social superiors or inferiors, and who as individuals 
either stay in the group to which they are born, or rise or fall to different levels de- 
pending upon the way their social attributes correspond to the values around which 
the particular class system is organized." Robert L. Sutherland and Julian L. Wood- 
ward, Introductory Sociology, pp. 363—64. And an ideally incomprehensible defini- 
tion is the following: "A social clas^ ... is the largest group of people whose 
members have intimate access to one another." Davis, Gardner, and Gardner, Deep 
South, p. 59. One might as well set himself the task of determining where the sky 
begins as to go out with such a definition, say, in Chicago, to locate social classes. 

""Some Principles of Stratification," American Sociological Review, Vol. 10, 
April 1945, p. 243. 


^An Introductory Sociology, rev. ed., p. 599. 

3o6 Caste, Class, and Race 

seems to have been applied in other ways. In a study of a small artificial 
community one author criticizes certain other studies as follows : 

. . . they confuse general stratification with other types of stratification, 
or they concentrate on general "social" stratification without regarding the 
elements that make it up . . . the factors underlying status or general 
stratification are usually inferred from a "class" analysis. Such a practice 
arises from a failure to distinguish conceptually and empirically the types 
of stratification. "Class" analysis of social settlements bury economic, 
status, power, and other types of stratification under general labels of 
"social," "status," or "class" stratification. As a result, it is impossible to 
discern the principles underlying each type of stratification, or the inter- 
relationships of the individual stratification structures. ^^ 

It is not our purpose here to settle disputes about the meaning of this 
term but rather to decide upon the way in which we shall use it so that 
our central idea, that the social-status continuum of a social-class sys- 
tem is not objectively segregated into layers, may be clarified. It is this 
mistake, as we see it, that has led many researchers into the field look- 
ing for social classes and sometimes actually supposing that they have 
isolated social classes. Therefore, we accept a somewhat literal use of 
the term connoting a condition of objectively recognizable, discrete 
strata. We think of each social estate as a social stratum because it is a 
broad social-status level recognized in custom and sometimes in law; 
in like manner the so-called "four castes" of ancient India appear to 
have been in reality four estates. In the modem social-class system where 
there is a status pyramid of a heterogeneity of atomized status-bearing 
objects we shall not speak of social stratification. If we were allowed 
we should prefer to say social-status "particulation" or "pyramida- 
tion" ; yet it has seemed more meaningful to think of stratified and non- 
stratified social-status systems. 

A social class is a heuristic concept significant mainly to the person 
conceiving of it. As A. C. Mace well says: "Awareness of one's class as 
a whole must be purely conceptual. The inter-familial links of any 
member of a class supply connections with only an insignificant portion 
of the class."^^ The researcher who goes into the field looking for a social 
class is hunting for something that is not there ; he will find it only in 
his own mind as figments of the intellect. To be sure, if he insists, he is 
likely to think that he has indeed isolated social classes in the homo- 

"William H. Form, "Status Stratification in a Planned Community," ^^menVan 
Sociological Review, Vol. lo, October 1945, p. 605. H. P. Fairchild, in his Diction- 
ary of Sociology, defines stratification as "the horizontal division of society into fairly 
definite identifiable layers^ such as class, caste, and status," p. 309. And: "The ar- 
rangement of societal elements into groups on diflferent horizontal levels," p. 293. 

"In Class Conflict and Social Stratification, ed. by T. H. Marshall, p. 160. 

Class and Caste 307 

geneous web of social interaction. His Procrustean arrays may even 
seem natural to him/® 

Social classes are "held apart," not by "institutional arrangements," 
but by the segregating criteria which the researcher has devised. Strictly 
speaking, a class does not have members because it is not an organiza- 
tion. When we speak of the "middle class," for example, it must be 
understood that persons in the middle of the middle class are no more 
in a class than are persons on the conceptual borders of that class. A 
still more serious limitation is the problem of determining how much 
of the middle is the middle class. In other words, the qualitative status 
continuum can be divided only arbitrarily, for we can hardly imagine a 
status hiatus between our selection of classes. 

Thus, no definition of social class which conceives of class as a segre- 
gated reality can be acceptable.^^ Simpson's complaint that we have not 
"an objective measure of class" is a suggestion that we should fashion a 
tangible yardstick to measure a largely intangible construct. This writer 
also desires a definition of class which will show the objective "differ- 
entiation of population in terms of fundamental material character- 
istics,"^^ The difficulty with this is simply that the population is not 
objectively differentiated into classes. 

A remarkable misdirection of view has evidently been responsible 
for sterile conceptions of status systems. Most definitions have concen- 
trated not upon the society itself, but upon an ideal construct developed 
for the purpose of aiding in understanding the nature of status dif- 
ferentiation in our society. In other words, most definitions have de- 
scribed not an on-going status system, but some taxonomic concept 
devised for easy comprehension of such a system. There may be also 
an influencing carry-over from the medieval feeling for estates, which, 
in fact, constituted social-status groups highly isolable. 

The class system, in reality, has no inherently verifiable social classes. 

"Observe, for instance, with what leisurely assurance Davis, Gardner, and 
Gardner speak of themselves: "The researchers concluded that the three main 
class divisions recognized by the society could be objectively described. 

"Because of the limitations of time, it was impossible to stratify every individual 
in the society by the interview-observation technique; but once the characteristics of 
the known individuals had been determined, criteria were available for placing any 
individual about whom some important facts were available." Op. cit., p. 63. 
(Italics added.) 

"Classes are not organizational aggregates. According to Nikolai Bukharin: "It 
is we who make the aggregation — that is a mental aggregate, a paper aggregate, 
not a real living aggregate. Such artificial groupings may be called imaginary or 
logical aggregates." Historical Materialism, p. 84. 

"George Simpson, "Class Analysis: What Class is Not," American Sociological 
Review, Vol. 4, December 1939, pp. 830, 831. 

3o8 Caste, Class, and Race 

When we say, for instance, that difficulty besets a person's rising from 
one social class into another, we do not mean that that person is ever 
conscious of the exact location of a class barrier. Obstacles to status 
advancement are myriad and diffused. His problem is of the same kind 
every step of the way up ; only it tends to become gradually more diffi- 
cult as he advances tov/ard the vertex of the status system. 

Persons behave toward other persons and not toward social classes,^® 
for a class is merely a segregating concept ; it cannot have a status as a 
person does. A social class is, in fact, what people think it is; and the 
criteria of status may vary from society to society, or from community 
to community — indeed, from status circle to status circle. Wealth, edu- 
cation, health, family record, talent, and so on, may be status values. 
But since these may vary by infinitesimally small increments ; since they 
are generally interdependent variables, so that, for example, wealth 
without education may not mean the same thing as wealth with educa- 
tion ; and since they may not always be precisely known^° — the margin 
of discretion may be very great. 

The following analogy may be helpful : We all know the difference 
between daylight and darkness. But could we speak of a hierarchy of 
light or of definitely distinguishable shades of light between noon and 
midnight? There are some valleys and hills, and even spots in shadow 
and in reflected light, all affecting the imperceptible gradations of light ; 
and, although this illustration is much simpler than the problem in 
hand, we may expect real differences of opinion as to minute degrees of 
light. However, persons will readily understand what illumination is 
meant by noon, twilight, and nightfall. So, too, in our own society we 
have a broad, workable idea of what is meant by the upper, middle, 
and lower class. "^ 

^^Persons in the caste system behave toward persons also but principally as mem- 
bers of a subcaste organization. One, for instance, could not challenge a caste-man 
without arousing more or less serious reactions from his fellows; in other words, to 
challenge a caste-man is, at least in principle, to challenge the caste itself. In the 
caste system the individual as a social-status entity has not emerged. 

^Note, for instance, with what care individuals guard the facts concerning their 
financial worth. To ask a man what his salary is or how much money he has in the 
bank is to enter into his most private affairs. Furthermore, it will evidently be of no 
particular advantage to the researcher to try to discover such social facts as are not 
generally known in the community, for then he himself is likely to become the 
arbiter of social status. He should rather allow himself to be guided by the beliefs 
which people hold about one another's status. Social status in a social-class system 
is the product of an interplay of personal estimates of status-bearing objects in the 
community; and a man may so live as to keep the community fooled or guessing 
about him. 

^In this study we have used the terms "class hierarchy" and "class stratum" 

There is, undoubtedly, considerable sociological insight to be gained from a study 

Cl ass and Caste 309 

Since the criteria of classification in both class and caste systems are 
more or less subjective, and since a class is not an organized entity, we 
should expect a tendency in persons of the class system and of the caste 
system to represent themselves as belonging to that class which is their 
immediate aspiration. In other words, persons like to claim membership 
in certain classes and will do so if their claim can be at all supported. As 
a consequence, not infrequently that class to which they assign them- 
selves will differ from the class to which they are assigned by their 
neighbors. Census commissioners in India have discovered an inclina- 
tion and willingness among castes to give themselves a dignified class 
status instead of siating their position with respect to other castes in the 
district. Ordinarily the varna class terms are resorted to. Confronted 
with this problem, Commissioner J. H. Hutton insisted: "The use of 
varna ... is quite impossible, since practically every Hindu who 
claims to be a Hindu at all would claim to be either Brahman or 
Kshatriya. Even castes of Chamars in the United Provinces have 
dropped their characteristic nomenclature, and at this census returned 
themselves as Sun- or Moon-descended Rajputs. This, of course, does 
not imply any correspondingly respectful treatment of them by their 
neighbors." ^^ In like manner we should expect many persons in Amer- 

of the way of life of persons of different social status in modern society. Such studies 
as Harvey W. Zorbaugh, The Gold Coast and the Slum; Robert S. and Helen M. 
Lynd, Middletown; E. Franklin Frazier, The Negro Family in Chicago; St. Clair 
Drake and Horace R. Cayton, Black Metropolis; and even literary works such as 
J. Saunders Redding, No Day of Triumph, and John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath, 
are contributions to our knowledge of the behavior arid condition of the low and 
of the high. In these there could be no question about the utility of a rough-and- 
ready reference to the lower, the middle, and the upper class. 

However, we should guard against straining the concept as Drake and Cayton 
do in Black Metropolis. In their discussion of "the system of social classes" the au- 
thors say: "Everybody in Bronzeville recognizes the existence of social classes, 
whether called that or not. People with slight education and small incomes . . . 
are always referring to the more affluent ... as 'dicties' . . ." etc. Then, using 
census data for education, rental, and occupation, they conclude: "At the top of 
the social pyramid [the upper class] is a scant 5 per cent of the population." A block 
diagram shows that there are 30 and 65 per cent in the middle and in the lower 
class respectively. The third step is the presenting of a number of selected verbaliza- 
tions and characterizations of persons assumed to be representative of their class, 
with the implication that classes as social entities have been isolated. This pro- 
cedure has been popularized by Professor W. Lloyd Warner. 

Probably the fallacy of the implication may be made apparent simply by asking 
the question: Why is there not 3 per cent or 10 per cent instead of "a scant 5 per 
cent at the top of the social pyramid" ? The answer seems to be clear that exactly 
5 per cent are on the top because the researchers themselves decided to pigeonhole 
or lop off that part of the population which receives an income above an ar- 
bitrarily selected figure, and so on with other status criteria. These fictitious 
groupings, if taken for what they really are, may have some valuable purpose; but 
they become mystical entities when attempts are made to describe them functionally. 

'^Census of India, 1931, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 432. See also Census of India, 1921, 
Vol. I, Pt. I, p. 223. Hutton's observation indicates also that it is a man's "neigh- 

310 Caste, Class, and Race 

ica, for instance, who might be objectively classified as lower class, to 
claim status in the popular middle class. 

Social status is largely an imputed social attribute ; it cannot be car- 
ried as one might carry his weight. ^^ The difference between the esti- 
mation of position by the status bearer and the outside observer is 
probably due to difference in point of view. The observer sees the prob- 
able social indices of position, while the person or caste tends to concen- 
trate upon the meaning of these. For instance, differences in wealth 
■ may be taken objectively as a significant factor determining status; but 
many lower-class persons may argue that being "a good Christian" puts 
them in a higher class than having more money merits the non-religious 
individual. And this notwithstanding obvious deferences which they 
\ may yield to the wealthier. It should also be remembered that the per- 
sonal estimate of so tangible a thing as a dollar tends to vary with the 
income of the estimator. It follows, therefore, that statuses will tend to 
vary with the value systems of the persons judging them. 

Furthermore, the great class strata in which a person or caste claims 
membership are not the only determinants of behavior. Among others, 
very much smaller differences — status differentials — are recognized; 
and the more rigid the class system, the greater the social significance 
of small differences in status. What a person really has is not class but 
status; social class is a conceptual status pigeonhole. Moreover, in any 
society a person tends to be what he does ; and the social estimation of 
what he does tends to be his social status. Women and children usually 
derive their status from that of the family.^* 

Class and Caste Mobility 

A man's caste is a personal matter; it is primary and possesses him 
traditionally. "To a Hindu his caste is the determining factor in his life, 
and beside it his age, civil condition, birth-place, and even his occupa- 

bors" and not his anonymous class that is of continual concern to him as a status- 
bearing entity. The individual is treated categorically — that is to say, as a class 
member — only by persons far away from him in status. 

^'"'A person's status in a group has a double aspect. On the one hand, it rests in 
the minds of his associates, since it is the way they treat him and consider him. On 
the other hand, status is registered in the mind of the individual himself, as a sort 
of reflection of how he stands in the eyes of others. Thus he may accept or submit 
to the place assigned to him and be content, in which case the accommodation be- 
tween him and his fellows is complete as a functional relationship. Or he may resent 
the place given him and desire a different position. In this case, his status is un- 
settled and he finds himself in conflict with others." E. T. Krueger and Walter C. 
Reckless, Social Psychology, p. 83. 

^Cf. Elin L. Anderson, We Americans, p. 53. 

Class and Caste 311 

tion are matters of comparative indifference."^^ A man's social class, on 
the other hand, is impersonal, secondary, and to him only vaguely 
circumscribed; he cannot perceive it unless through cliques or "gangs," 
and its imputed members as a whole are strangers to one another. The 
caste is a sympathetic unity; the social class, once again, is a con- 
ceptualized social-status segment of society. The class is internally com- 
petitive, with family set against family in ceaseless emulation ; the caste 
is internally co-operative, with families fraternally interested in each 
other. Members of a class are constantly striving upward and away 
from their fellows, a situation which leads to their individuation; the 
interest of caste members, on the other hand, is bound up with the 
fortune of the caste in a sort of fatalistic fraternal solidarity. 

An individual may leave his class behind him and forget it with im- 
punity ; a man's caste status, however, cannot be so easily sloughed off. 
The following is an illustration of sentimental attachment of individual 
and caste : 

The Bengal Talis . . . have largely deserted their traditional occupa- 
tion of oil-pressing in favor of trade, and are a fairly prosperous com- 
munity. Under Warren Hastings, a high official who belonged to their 
community, having amassed a great fortune, offered a munificent gift to 
the temple of Puri, in the hope of raising the status of his caste. The local 
priests refused to accept the gift from a member of a caste which was then 
regarded as unclean. The would-be donor appealed to the pandits of 
Hooghly and Nabadwip, and persuaded them to decide that the Bengal 
Teli is a trading caste, deriving its name not from tel, "oil," but from tula 
or "balance," used by traders in their business. In consequence of their 
ruling, the Telis of Bengal proper are now regarded as a clean Sudra 

There is no rivalry — to say nothing about social antagonism — be- 
tween social classes, for classes are not functional entities. Rivalry is a 
characteristic function of status bearers, such as persons in the class 
system and castes in the caste system. The greater the stability of the 
class system, the greater the social distance between persons of the 
different putative classes, and, naturally, the greater the difficulty of 
upward movement. The extremes of social distance between person 
and person on this earth is probably attained in southern India between 
certain castes of Brahmans and the "unsightables." In the United 
States, "interclass" social distance is "short" and comparatively easily 

^Census of India, 1921, Vol. I, Pt. i, p. 223. 
^"Caste," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 

312 Caste, Class, and Race 

When we say that a person bom in a certain caste cannot aspire to 
rise out of it, we do not mean that he is hopelessly barred from ad- 
vancement. He may not rise, leaving his caste behind him ; yet, though 
difficult, it is not impossible for him to move up with his entire caste. 
Of course the caste does not rotate upward in the way illustrated by 
W. Lloyd Warner ;^^ it moves up in its entirety as a person or family 
might. Therefore, a person's status might change while his caste 
affiliation remains intact. 

^ So far as the individual is concerned, in the caste system the limits 
of ambition are definitely narrowed; his caste competitors are identi- 
fied; hence rivalry may sometimes flare into conflict,"* and failure is not 
so heavily penalized as in the class system. In class societies ambition is 
theoretically limitless; competition tends to be individuated and anon- 
ymous; hence rivals are not ordinarily openly identified, and failure 
is more tragic because responsibility is atomized and personalized. A 
person may be declassed, may fall in class position, but he cannot be 
outclassed in the sense that he may be outcasted. A social class cannot 
expel an individual for the simple reason that